Fire Services:
Employee Engagement with the Equality and Diversity Agenda

FSCA logo The project involved a sequence of commissions for employee and organisational reviews for the Fire Services Consultation Association (FSCA) and Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA) and Communities and Local Government (CLG). The projects were concerned with promoting and monitoring employee engagement with the equality and diversity agenda within the UK fire and rescue service.

The elements were:

  • Facilitating development of a national Equality and Diversity Action Plan
  • Evaluating proposals and facilitating the development of national Core Values
  • Designing and implementing the first ever national Cultural Audit for the fire service
  • Benchmarking progress - equality and diversity agenda across all the UK fire and rescue services

ORS facilitated national Forums of civil servants, trades union representatives and senior fire service officers to develop an Equality and Diversity Action Plan that would be challenging while also providing measurable and achievable goals - including, for example, the development of National Core Values and the design and implementation of a National Cultural Audit process. ORS provided an outline of the form and content of the Action Plan for the then ODPM (now CLG). ORS also consulted widely with employees across the fire service in order to ‘reality-check’ the action plan proposals while ensuring that they were both challenging and measurable. A sequence of engagement meetings was held with employees to review the action plan and advise on its implementation.

With the Action Plan developed, ORS convened and facilitated national workshops of stakeholders – including civil servants, fire service officers, academics, representatives of the equality streams, and trades representatives – to develop National Core Values for the English and Welsh fire services.

With the Core Values developed, ORS was further commissioned by the FSCA and the CFOA to develop a National Cultural Audit toolkit for use by all UK fire and rescue services to survey and analyse their employee views on equality and diversity. For this project, ORS convened Forums of equality and diversity professionals and human resources specialists from across the UK fire service – to meet and work together collaboratively to develop a National Cultural Audit questionnaire. ORS has also carried out all the resulting Employee Surveys for the Cultural Audits.

Finally, ORS was commissioned by the CLG and CFOA to conduct an ‘audit style’ survey all chief fire officers about the progress of their organisations on the equality and diversity agendas. The general framework for the study was the Local Government Equality Standard but the more specific context was the Towards Diversity II Action Plan that was the fire element of this staged sequence of projects.

All of the Scottish and many of the English and Welsh fire services have now used the Cultural Audit successfully to monitor their progress on equality and diversity issues by surveying all their employees. ORS has conducted all of these surveys – from printing questionnaires to data analysis and benchmarking reports. In many fire services, we have not only reported on the Cultural Audit surveys but have then conducted follow-up engagement events to consider issues in more depth and devise action plans.