Inspectors find bullying, harassment and discrimination in England’s fire stations


The “extremely disturbing” evidence of bullying, harassment and discrimination in England’s fire service may be the “tip of the iceberg,” an independent inspector said.

Inspectors from Her Majesty’s Police and Fire and Rescue Service (HMICFRS) reported that staff recalled racist, sexist, and homophobic comments and actions that they objected to. Either it wasn’t done, or it was dismissed as a “joke”.

They included a senior officer using derogatory racial terms to refer to a black colleague, homophobic abuse scrawled on a firefighter’s locker, and two firefighters attacking a female colleague. It included claims that he was joking about it.

There was also the “staff perception” that women were appointed on the basis of their gender rather than their ability.

At some services, investigators found staff unwilling to raise concerns.

With 35 recommendations, the report focuses on the values ​​and cultures of all 44 Fire and Rescue Services (FRS) in England and is based on evidence gathered through research since 2018.

Bullying, harassment, and discrimination were found to be still a problem, albeit to varying degrees, across all services.

His Majesty’s Inspector Roy Wilshere of the Fire and Rescue Service said he was “shocked and appalled” by some of the findings, and thought many of the actions were from “the dark and distant past”. .

The report says they deserve assurance that “FRS staff they come in contact with have undergone background checks before performing these roles.”

low trust

Inspectors are calling for proper background checks of all firefighters and staff and the introduction of new cheating standards, including a national banned list and a new mechanism for staff to raise concerns.

Inspectors found instances in which employees were reluctant to speak up or challenge inappropriate behavior. Career suicide to do so”.

According to the report, all staff, especially those in emergency service roles where the lives of both staff and members of the public are at risk, need a reporting process they can trust to be safe without fear of reprisal. I’m doing it.

Wilsher said the fire department’s culture is “stagnant and needs to be brought into the 21st century.”

He said there was evidence of low trust in complaints procedures in 13 FRS, and staff surveys found that staff from minority backgrounds who experienced bullying or harassment were less likely to report it than white staff. added that indicated

It also noted that “most services need to do more to improve equality, diversity and I also found out that I have not yet represented

I quoted a 2018 government report (pdf) shows that only 4% of firefighters are from ethnic minorities, compared to 16% of the working-age population.

This meant that of the 12 public sector workforces, the FRS were “least ethnically diverse.”

“It is therefore clear that services have to do more to recruit and retain people from diverse backgrounds,” said the latest report.

Inspectors said more than half of the abuses filed within the service in the last 12 months involved inappropriate behavior such as bullying and harassment related to protected properties.

Epoch Times photo
Firefighters fight a fire at an industrial building in Riverway, Harrow, England, April 26, 2022 (Dorottya Spányik/PA Media)

urgent recommendation

The report provided recommendations to fire chiefs, governments, and national fire agencies “as a matter of urgency.”

Responding to Friday’s report, fire brigade union general secretary Matt Luck said:

“Our equality department has also expressed concern about these issues over the years.

“It is clear from our experience and from the content of this report that our failure to address discrimination and harassment in our services is a top priority.

“Some fire department leaders are part of the problem and fail to systematically address discrimination, harassment and bullying in the fire service.”

PA Media contributed to this report.