DEVON and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service is one of the UK’s leading organisations for lesbian, gay and bisexual equality, according to Stonewall - a national campaign and support group.

The service has achieved a place in Stonewall’s prestigious Top 100 Employers list, demonstrating that it is creating an inclusive working environment. It has been ranked 91 out of 369 public and private sector organisations in the national Workplace Equality Index, an improvement of 67 places since last year.

The Workplace Equality Index is Britain's leading tool for employers to measure their efforts to tackle discrimination and create inclusive workplaces for lesbian, gay and bisexual employees, using Stonewall's criteria as a model for good practice. It assesses employers’ performance in areas from tackling anti-gay bullying and harassment to supporting the career development of employees and the presence of senior role models for them.

For this year’s submission, the service’s evidence included gay-friendly policies and procedures, equality training for all employees and regular internal and external communications on relevant issues.

Chief fire officer Lee Howell said: “I’m thrilled about this tremendous achievement and in particular that we have got there one year ahead of our target. The service is committed to lesbian, gay and bisexual equality and works hard to create the right environment for colleagues to be open about their sexual orientation if they choose. This national recognition demonstrates how we value all our employees and strive to be an excellent employer.”

Assistant chief fire officer Pete Smith is the service’s lesbian, gay and bisexual senior champion and plays a key role in encouraging and supporting equality in the workplace and community.

He said: “We know that people are more able to be relaxed, creative and productive at work if they can be open and honest about who they are and do not feel under pressure to censor their lives every day."

The Service recently launched Fire Pride - an employee network which provides support and guidance to individual employees and to the organisation on lesbian, gay abd bisexual issues. 

Staff member Steve Huntington from Fire Pride said: “Many of us can now be open about our sexuality in the workplace but there are those who aren’t or feel they can’t be. Fire Pride helps those people that choose to be open as well as those that don’t but identify themselves as lesbian, gay or bisexual. Our network provides guidance for all staff and their managers to ensure that what is a significant part of a person’s life is treated confidentially, respectfully and is fully supported.”