Plans to force frontline Police Scotland officers to be clean-shaven at all times have been postponed after they provoked a backlash from the rank-and-file.
The policy, which was originally announced in April, has now been delayed for at least a year to get senior officials to look again at the evidence for what was termed the “beard ban”.
Police Scotland previously said the policy was being brought in to “protect those on the front line”, as wearing FFP3 protective masks properly requires the face to be clean-shaven.
The force also said there would have been exemptions to the rule on religious or medical grounds, but it was criticised for failing to consult officers properly before announcing the plan.
In May, the Scottish Police Federation (SPF) said the plan had caused “considerable angst” among bearded officers, who might have faced misconduct proceedings if they refused to shave.
In a statement given to the BBC on Tuesday, Police Scotland Assistant Chief Constable Alan Speirs said: “I am very grateful to all divisions, staff associations and unions who provided valuable feedback during the consultation phase.
“Postponing implementation allows further examination of the evidence base for a policy which is proportionate and justifies change, particularly where that changes has a significant impact on officers and staff.
“This work will be reviewed in 12 months to ensure we reach an agreed position on a policy which has the health and safety of our people at its core.”
The decision was welcomed by SPF general secretary, David Kennedy, who said the policy had been “highly criticised from all areas of the service”.
It was previously reported that four male officers had launched their own legal action against the policy on the grounds of discrimination. Police Scotland did not confirm whether any agreement had been reached on these cases.
Amanda Buchanan of Levy and McRae Solicitors, who has been representing the officers, said the force should have investigated other options first.
“I think it’s similar to saying for a female, perhaps why wouldn’t you have short hair, just cut your hair,” she said.
“It’s how you choose to express your own identity, your personality and it’s very important and it’s part of your human rights.”