7. Strategic Priority 6 - People
SFRS should continue to be a Fair Work employer and develop as an employer of choice. It should promote the equality, safety and physical and mental health of all its staff. SFRS should continue to maximise the effectiveness of its approach to workforce and succession planning and should be a learning organisation with equal opportunities for all. SFRS should ensure it enables innovation and change through its People Strategy. SFRS should actively strive to be an organisation that is more representative of the people and communities of Scotland that it serves.
SFRS should aim to have in place an appropriate workforce structure and systems which will prepare all those working in the Service, through robust and tailored development programmes, to develop its capability to meet current and future needs. SFRS should continue to actively develop the culture of the organisation to embrace the values of being inclusive, diverse and fair and ensure these are fully embedded across the whole workforce. To do this, the Service must invest in its current workforce and plan for the type of workforce it will need in the future.
Scotland's Fair Work Approach
The Scottish Government's vision, shared by the Fair Work Convention, is for Scotland to be a leading Fair Work Nation by 2025. The strategic ambitions for Fair Work are set out in the Fair Work Convention's Framework, which underpins the government's Fair Work Action Plan. As a public body, SFRS is expected to take a leading role in adopting and promoting Fair Work, by applying, First criteria, to drive improvement, namely: appropriate channels for effective voice, such as trade union recognition; investment in workforce development; no inappropriate use of zero hours contracts; action to tackle the gender pay gap and create a more diverse and inclusive workplace; and continued payment of the real Living Wage.
SFRS adapted quickly to the need for staff to work from home whenever possible during the Covid-19 pandemic including making best use of technology to facilitate this change. It should build on the lessons learned from the flexible working arrangements and use of technology which were developed during this period in considering future flexible working patterns for staff.
SFRS will also be expected to adopt further criteria that the Scottish Government may introduce to address particular labour market challenges as the economy evolves.
Skills and Changing Needs
SFRS should consider what skills its workforce may need to acquire or develop further in order to maximise their contribution to the Service's modernisation and to meet the changing needs of local communities. SFRS must ensure that the workforce maintains competence to deliver core duties in addition to developing skills to meet the changing requirements of the services it delivers, thus maximising its ability to contribute to improved outcomes for the communities and people of Scotland. It should consider the right mix of expertise in firefighting and corporate functions to best deliver a forward looking 21st Century Fire and Rescue Service.
SFRS should only expect its operational firefighters to undertake duties to which they have been properly trained and equipped. It is therefore essential that SFRS regularly reviews training capacity against demand. SFRS should ensure there is sufficient training capacity and investment in people and resources to ensure staff are competent in any new or adapted roles they will be expected to undertake.
To maximise the impact of training whilst minimising the time spent away from operational duties, SFRS should ensure its whole workforce, wherever in Scotland that are based, have full access to the training and development they need to deliver their role.
In adapting and developing services, the skills needed by staff will change over time, and it is therefore crucial that SFRS considers future needs as it evolves its learning and development functions.
As a learning organisation, SFRS must identify opportunities for learning from its past actions, including operational incidents, and ensure that lessons learned are shared across the organisation and become embedded in future behaviour.
SFRS should work in partnership with other organisations to maximise learning and sharing of best practice, including joint multi-agency debriefing and training for responding to a range of incidents. It is crucial that SFRS not only identifies learning but also integrates that learning into long term change and improvement. It therefore needs to embrace a culture of openness to learn from past actions, particularly with a focus on the outcomes of those actions.
Succession and Workforce Planning
Succession plans, acknowledging the skills, experience and knowledge that it will require in the future should be developed in the context of SFRS's own Strategic Plan and the Strategic People and Organisational Developments Plan and should provide value in wider organisational business planning than just recruitment. SFRS is facing an aging workforce and must ensure it does not lose expertise and corporate memory when staff retire. As a fair work employer, SFRS must engage with trade unions and directly with staff along with utilising appropriate internal and external expertise in designing and delivering its succession plans. The Service should set out what it will do, how it will do it and how it will monitor progress, recognising existing strengths.
Health, Wellbeing and Safety
Operational fire and rescue activity does come with risks to firefighter safety and in carrying out those activities, firefighters can be exposed to dangers and traumatic experiences. In addition, the Covid-19 pandemic has added additional stress and anxiety to everyone's lives, with many people suffering from bereavement. SFRS should continue to give the highest priority to the safety, physical and mental health and well-being of its staff and those they serve and protect by encouraging a culture of health and well-being; and by providing and maintaining systems to support and enhance well-being and safety at work.
SFRS should ensure that it takes a collaborative approach on matters of staff safety, health and mental well-being, and that participation and involvement of employees and their representatives is undertaken when identifying, resolving and improving policy and related practice. This should ensure that workforce development, promoting health and well-being and harmonious industrial relations remain priorities.
Equalities and Human Rights
SFRS must, in terms of its obligations under the Human Rights Act 1998, act in accordance with the European Convention for Human Rights. SFRS must also comply with the Equality Act 2010 and the Equality Act 2010 (Specific Duties) (Scotland) Regulations 2012. Under the general duty within the Equality Act 2010 , SFRS must have due regard to the need to eliminate unlawful discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations between people who share a relevant protected characteristic and people that do not share it. The regulations further specify the actions public bodies are expected to take in meeting this duty. SFRS should ensure that its decision making and reporting demonstrates how equality issues are considered, including as an element of SFRS's improvement processes.
SFRS must ensure that equality is mainstreamed across all functions of the Service. SFRS must set, review and report on progress to equality outcomes designed to meet the aims of workforce and board diversity and service provision. Information on the profile of personnel across the protected characteristics must be monitored and reported on, together with other relevant information such as the gender pay gap. SFRS must ensure publication of a statement outlining policies on equal pay between men and women, persons who are disabled and who are not, and persons who fall into a minority racial group and persons who do not. SFRS should also continue to develop systems and processes that will ensure that the equality performance of suppliers is assessed through the procurement process. As part of its work to address equality issues, SFRS should remain an accredited Living Wage Employer and encourage the uptake of Modern Apprentices across the organisation in recognition of wider Scottish Government aspirations.
Building on SFRS Equality and Diversity Charter and the Scottish Government's Fair Work principles, SFRS should work towards achieving the Scottish Government's ambition of a fairer society with a diverse operational workforce. SFRS should promote workforce diversity through positive action on recruitment, retention and promotion to encourage greater involvement of under-represented groups to develop a workforce that greater reflects the population of Scotland in terms of characteristics such as sex, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation, disability and gender reassignment. Support and engagement should also be shown with organisations that support youth employment.
SFRS should continually benchmark against other Fire and Rescue Services and similar emergency services along with other public bodies and private organisations to ensure it is leading the way on equality of outcome along with making sure learning and initiatives are taken on board.
Historically firefighters were predominately male and SFRS has already worked towards the aim of a balanced workforce with an increase in the number of female firefighters. There is clear consensus that increasing diversity in the Boardroom and in senior leadership roles encourages new and innovative thinking, maximises use of talent and leads to better business decisions and governance. The Scottish Government encourages public, private and third sector organisations to sign up to the Partnerships for Change. Succession planning is critical to ensure that Boards have the skills and diversity of contribution they need to address future challenges and priorities. A key challenge for SFRS is to identify its Board's skills and diversity requirements over the medium and long-term as part of its corporate planning process, and develop a strategy for meeting these. Aligning the profile of skills of the Board members with the Strategic Plan will ensure that the Board has the right skills to deal with planned business as the work of the Service evolves; and importantly how the Service plans to ensure that happens.
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