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Cheshire Fire climbs employer list

21 January 2019

CHESHIRE FIRE and Rescue Service (CFRS) is moving closer to the top of LGBT charity Stonewall's prestigious Top 100 Employers list for 2019.

The service has jumped another place from their 2018 fourth place to number three on the list and is the highest performing public sector organisation in the UK. Cheshire Fire is also the best performing emergency service in the UK due to its efforts to engage lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) staff, volunteers and communities. 

This is the seventh consecutive year the service has featured in the Top 100, which assesses organisations ranging from local authorities to international investment banks against criteria including engagement with staff and communities, training and leadership. CFRS entered the Top 100 in 2014 at number 25 and has increased its ranking year on year. It has also been the highest performing UK emergency service in 2016, 2017, 2018 and now 2019. 

Following the service's appearance in the Top 20 Employers for the past four years Stonewall has also recognised CFRS as a Star Performer, a new commendation which recognises consistent high performance. In addition, the LGBT Employee Network Group, FirePride, has been rewarded with a Highly Commended Network Group 2019.

Cllr Bob Rudd, the chair of Cheshire Fire Authority, the body which oversees the Service, said the achievement was testament to the organisation’s consistent and continued work around equality. He said, ”Residents can be assured that the services we provide, be it emergency response, safe and well visits or youth work, are delivered in a way that’s inclusive of the wonderfully diverse communities we serve. No one from the LGBT community should hesitate to engage with our staff or volunteers and the Service’s third position on the Stonewall Top 100 list provides that reassurance.”

445 employers across the public, private and third sectors entered the 2019 index. This year Stonewall received over 92,000 responses to the staff survey, making it one of the largest national employment surveys in Britain, with 17,300 LGBT respondents.

The service was recognised in particular for its focus on the organisation’s LGBT network, Firepride, conference held in partnership with Cheshire Constabulary and Cheshire West and Chester Council. A role models booklet was launched, showcasing LGBT models from the workforce. A Q&A discussion, in which role models shared their experiences at work, was part of the event.

Community engagement and youth work was also highlighted. The CFRS interactive safety and lifeskills education centre, Safety Central, offers schools and youth groups a choice of modules to explore during visits. One core module on offer is 'Gender and Identity'. It covers language and terminology, LGBT role models, and the spectrum of identities. It is made clear throughout that the learning environment is a safe, non-judgmental space.
The commitment of senior members of staff actively engaging with Trans inclusion, such as trans awareness sessions and the launch of the Trans allies empowerment programme was also a positive factor in the success of the Service in Stonewall’s Top 100.

Chief fire officer, Mark Cashin, who is also the senior sponsor of the Service’s LGBT staff Network Firepride, said, “Last year, Stonewall released research that revealed more than a third of LGBT staff, wherever they work, have hidden they are LGBT and almost one in five LGBT employees in workplaces across the country have been the target of negative comments from colleagues because of their identity.

“It is important that anyone joining our workforce knows that they can be themselves at work so they can fully commit to the important work they do for our communities. We want the best people to work for us, regardless of background, so I would urge anyone who would like to join us to keep an eye on our website for opportunities such as on-call firefighter recruitment at a number of our fire stations, wholetime firefighter recruitment and support staff vacancies. It is testament to the ongoing engagement of all our staff that once again we have been recognised as the top emergency service for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the Stonewall Top 100 list, endorsing our commitment to LGBT inclusivity.”

Darren Towers, Stonewall’s executive director, said: “Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service and all those who have made this year’s Top 100 Employers list are making a huge difference to workplaces, services and communities across the UK. LGBT-inclusive employers play a crucial role in changing society by using their power and influence to protect and support LGBT people. More than a third of LGBT staff (35 per cent) still hide their identity at work for fear of discrimination; that has an impact on productivity, wellbeing and more and shows we still have lots to do.

"However, with organisations like Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service displaying such a strong commitment to LGBT equality, we are one step closer to creating a world where all lesbian, gay, bi and trans employees are welcomed and accepted without exception."