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Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service equality, diversity and inclusion policy

1. Introduction - key principles

  • Our commitment to equality and inclusion is an integral part of everything we do as service provider and an employer:
  • Equality of opportunity is a legal right of every employee and job applicant
  • The people we serve and who work with us and for us are entitled to be equally valued, treated with dignity and respected as individuals
  • In service delivery and decision making we will take account of the differing needs of all our communities and plan how to meet these needs
  • We believe that the recruitment, retention and career progression of suitably qualified candidates who reflect the communities we serve will help us to deliver an even better service
  • All forms of harassment, discrimination and bullying are totally unacceptable to the service in our role as an employer and a public service provider
  • All employees are responsible for challenging prejudice and discrimination in our service if ever it occurs
  • We will work with our staff, managers and representative bodies to support an inclusive culture where everyone understands their personal responsibility in ensuring that colleagues and the public are treated with dignity and respect.
  • Breaches of this policy may be regarded as misconduct and could lead to disciplinary procedures which could ultimately end in dismissal.

2. Policy statement

We recognise our legal responsibilities under the Equality Act 2010 and specifically the public sector equality duty to:

  • Eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation and other conduct prohibited by the Act
  • Advance equality of opportunity between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not
  • Foster good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not. 

These protected characteristics are:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Race
  • Religion and belief
  • Sex
  • Gender reassignment
  • Sexual orientation
  • Marriage and civil partnership
  • Pregnancy and maternity.

To do this, we make sure that equality issues are considered as part of our routine, activities and in longer term decision making. This helps us to ensure that:

  • All members of staff, regardless of role in the organisation, have equality of opportunity and are treated consistently within the policies of the service.
  • Managers make decisions about recruitment and selection, reward, terms and conditions, performance management, training, development and progression based on individual ability, job requirements and in line with relevant policies.
  • We have transparent employment policies and practices which have been assessed for equality impact, are clearly understood, consistently and fairly implemented.
  • In delivering our services, members of the public are treated with dignity and respect regardless of the differences that make each person unique.
  • Everyone is aware of best practice in respect of equal opportunities and their responsibilities as an employee and/or manager. As part of this commitment training on equalities is available for all employees on the Learning Hub and guidance on different aspects of equality is available in the Equality and Diversity Section of the intranet.
  • Managers take responsibility for ensuring that all reasonable adjustments or supportive measures are considered to allow equality of access and opportunity for their staff regardless of age, sex, disability, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion or belief, gender reassignment or identity, pregnancy or marital status.
  • We assess the impact of our services on different groups and respond to their varied needs on a risk basis, engaging with them and providing services that are appropriate to them. This includes the use of a google translate facility on our website, links to fire prevention information in different languages/formats and the use of INTRAN for face to face, BSL, telephone and written translation when required.
  • We believe that a more diverse workforce will help us to deliver an even better service and are committed to attracting, developing and retaining staff from a wide range of backgrounds and cultures.
  • All forms of bullying, harassment, victimisation and discrimination are unacceptable to everyone in the service.
  • All members of staff feel confident in raising concerns about breaches of this policy with their line manager using the appropriate procedure.
  • Concerns raised by members of the public will be handled quickly, thoroughly and sensitively using the NFRS complaints procedure.

3. Responsibilities for equality, diversity and inclusion

The Director of Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service has overall accountability for equality, diversity and inclusion.

The Senior Leadership Team oversees implementation of this policy and our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy 2023-2026.

All employees - every member of staff - is responsible for:

  • Ensuring that the way in which they interact with colleagues and the communities we serve treats people with dignity and respect.
  • Co-operating with any measures introduced to deliver equality in service delivery and employment.
  • Bringing any incidents of discrimination, bullying or harassment to the attention of their manager in order that it can be dealt with promptly and effectively.
  • Understanding that disciplinary action may be taken against any member of staff who is found to have unlawfully discriminated against someone or behaved in a way that breaches the Standards of Conduct.

Supervisors and managers have additional responsibilities. They are responsible for:

  • Applying this policy in both the day-to-day management of staff and service provision
  • Implementing employment policies and practices in a fair, consistent and equitable way including agreed positive action initiatives.
  • Being aware of the diversity within their teams/watches and ensuring this is managed to bring out the full potential of all the members.
  • Ensuring prejudice or discriminatory behaviour is quickly and appropriately dealt with in line with agreed policies and procedures.
  • Carrying out Equality Impact Assessments on policies, procedures and changes in service delivery, where appropriate, ensuring that any adverse outcomes are identified and addressed.

Human Resources colleagues are responsible for:

  • Ensuring that Equality Impact Assessments in respect of employment policies and practices are completed as required.
  • Effective monitoring and analysis of all aspects of the employment cycle to ensure that employment policies, procedures and practices are free of discrimination, unless it can be objectively justified. Supporting positive action initiatives designed to increase the diversity of our workforce.
  • Providing best practice guidance and support to managers and supervisors in making employment decisions in an objective way, consistent with the principles outlined in this and related policies.
  • Liaising with recognised Trade Unions about the industrial relations aspects of this and related policies. 

Equality and Diversity Officers are responsible for:

  • Providing specialist advice and support in relation to Equality Impact Assessments, Equalities Legislation, Equality Monitoring, Policy Development and Community Engagement
  • Monitoring and reporting on how we are meeting our statutory duties in line with the Equality Act 2010 (Specific Duties Regulations) 2011
  • Providing specialist, confidential and impartial advice on all aspects of equality, diversity and inclusion to staff, managers, and Trade Union representatives
  • Assisting in the development of positive action initiatives to increase the diversity of our workforce, working with other public bodies, staff networks, Trade Unions and charities supporting equality, diversity and inclusion within our communities and the workplace.

4. Definitions

Positive action

A range of actions that aim to overcome or reduce disadvantages faced by people who share a protected characteristic. Where under-representation exists, suitable positive action measures will be considered to increase the diversity of the service. This can include promoting firefighting as a career for women and for people from diverse ethnic, national and cultural backgrounds and encouraging applications from disabled people. This may be done in a variety of ways, including the use of positive language and images in the media, open days, actively engaging with diverse communities, encouraging applications from suitably qualified candidates. It is not positive discrimination - every candidate must be selected only on their ability to undertake the role.

Work/life balance

Each of us has different needs which may change over time and in response to changes in personal circumstances. As an organisation we are committed to developing work/life skills, providing tools, resources and a supportive environment for all our staff. We encourage employees to work with their managers to make choices that assist them in navigating their work and personal life challenges while meeting the needs of the service. More details are available in our well-being and leave policies.

5. Other equality issues

Leave for religious observance

Many religions or beliefs have special festivals or spiritual observance days, and an employee may request leave to celebrate these. Managers should make every reasonable effort to accommodate any request for prayer or other spiritual observance facilities eg appropriate accommodation/washing facilities and adjustment of working hours where it is possible to do so in line with the needs of the service.

Equality Impact Assessments

The service undertakes equality impact assessments on new and revised policies, practices and services. We give due regard to the need to advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations between people who share a certain protected characteristic and those who do not. Guidance on equality impact assessments is available on our intranet or from the Equality and Diversity Officer.

6. Ensuring the effectiveness of the policy

In order to measure and review the effectiveness of our policies, procedures and guidance and in line with our obligations under the Public Sector Equality Duty we will:

  • Monitor, review and report on employment activities, publishing relevant information annually.
  • Use positive action initiatives when appropriate to do so.
  • Review on a regular basis all employment policies and procedures to ensure they reflect best practice, legal and policy obligations and are effectively delivered.
  • Monitor and report annually on access to and the impact of our services on people who share a relevant protected characteristic. This will help us to ensure that those most at risk have access to appropriate services; that they are delivered in a way that has greatest impact and so helps reduce preventable deaths and injuries in fires or other emergencies.
  • Provide advice and guidance to recruiters and other key employees so that they are aware of their responsibilities under this policy.
  • Ensure disabled employees are provided with an opportunity, at least on an annual basis, to discuss with their manager their developmental needs, including reviewing any reasonable adjustments which might be required, to enable them to perform to their full potential in the workplace.
  • Ensure that managers understand their responsibilities to support staff undertaking gender reassignment as detailed in the Transgender policy.

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