Response to positive action taster days

Chief Fire Officer Rod Hammerton, Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service 

We acknowledge there has been some criticism of the way the Service has organised its upcoming taster days.

The criticism has largely focussed on our decision to hold separate taster days for specific groups, namely women, LGBT+ and Black and minority ethnic groups. 

As a Service we are trying very hard to address issues that may be persuading some people from these groups that a career in the fire service is not suitable for them.  

By holding taster days tailored to address issues such as this, we believe we have a much better opportunity to dispel misunderstandings and provide people with good, accurate information.

We also want to reassure people that the modern fire and rescue service can offer them a fulfilling and rewarding career. 

Taster days are not recruitment days. They are an opportunity for under-represented groups in the fire service to find out more about working as a firefighter and to encourage them to apply for future vacancies.   

Taster days are positive action, they are not recruitment sessions.   

There are no quotas.   

When we have vacancies we employ the best that apply and only those that meet the standards. 

Positive action is frequently confused with positive discrimination. 

Taster days are an example of positive action, raising awareness amongst those groups, under-represented in our workforce. 
Positive discrimination is illegal and we would not act unlawfully.

A modern day firefighter is a public service role. As well as fighting fires and responding to emergenices, they work in schools and with young people, giving talks to community groups, supporting the vulnerable and most importantly working in people’s homes to prevent incidents.   

We want to be an inclusive service that reflects the communitiy we serve. To do that we want the best people to apply regardless of their age, gender, race or lifestyle for this diverse role. 

We have provided some responses to frequently asked questions that will be helpful in understanding why we carry out positive action. 

Frequently Asked Questions on Positive Action 

Why aren’t you holding taster days for ‘white males’? 

We will be holding four open days which are open to all in September.  The Equality Act 2010 specifies that we can undertake positive action for our under-represented groups please follow this link for more information We won't be holding specifc days for white males but open to all. 

The adverts for these open to all events will be going out shortly. 

What is positive action?  

The Equality Act 2010 allows positive action to be undertaken where an organisation can show they are under represented by specific groups in the last 12 months.  Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service are under represented in Wholetime posts in the following areas: 

Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people 5% 

LGBT+ 0.5% 

Women 6% (Census 2011)

Positive action is used to encourage these groups to consider the role of a firefighter and we are allowed to undertake awareness sessions and training.  

These sessions give people the opportunity to ask questions and experience the culture of the organisation which they may not have been able to do previously. 

You just have a quota for certain people and make allowances to hit those figures. 

We do not have quotas or targets.  We want to be an inclusive employer and to reflect the communities we serve. 

All people who want to join go through the same recruitment process, the first of which is online and undertaken by an external organisation.  All applicants go through exactly the same process, to become a firefighter is highly competitive due to the numbers of applicants we receive and the best person for the role is recruited.   

Why is positive action needed? 

Many roles in society are still stereotyped, and the role of the firefighter is one of these roles.  Historically there were criteria in place that may have prohibited specific groups from applying or not having an awareness of the organisation or its culture maybe off putting. 

Positive action gives people to find out more about the role and what it might be like to work for us.  To find out if they will be welcome. 

Why do you need positive action for recruitment?  

Positive action in relation to recruitment often generates misinformed responses for example: ‘white men can’t apply’.   

The taster days are not part of the recruitment process, positive action is being used to encourage participation from certain groups that would not normally apply to meet our teams, ask questions and learn about the role of a firefighter. Attendance at these events does not give any advantage at the recruitment stages.  

You are choosing people because you need more Black, Asian and minority ethnic people to apply to get your quota.   

Taster days are not part of the recruitment process. When the process does start, applicants are considered on individual merit and selection for interview and appointment is based strictly on the agreed selection criteria, anything else would be unlawful.  

Why are you holding special events for certain groups?   

These taster days are NOT about recruiting, testing or interviewing, they are for certain groups to ask specific questions. For example, women may have different questions about fitness areas they will need to improve.  Having a go at a version of the tests allows them to see where they will need to work on. 

Isn’t this just a tick box exercise for equality?  

No. SFRS is committed to employing a diverse workforce and the taster sessions support the Service’s commitment to equality, diversity, and inclusion along with the ‘Voices’ groups to champion the views of different groups within the Service.  

Shouldn't everybody get the same opportunity?  

Everybody does get the same recruitment opportunity. A person's colour or sex does not matter and recruitment is always based on the person most capable. Attending a taster day doesn’t mean you have an advantage and it is not a guarantee of entry to the recruitment process.   

Open to all taster day dates will be issued soon and are being held in September and October.   

You are favouring people with certain characteristics over others.   

This is untrue. The best candidate is chosen based on their ability to perform the job, see comments above.    

28th July, 2020