The fire service is keen to attract and retain more women. One service is doing this through an enhanced maternity package.
Firefighter Emma Richards has just had her second daughter and has benefited from an enhanced maternity package aimed at retaining women in the fire service.
Emma and her partner Jason are both firefighters in Newcastle.
Sixteen months ago Emma had her first daughter Katie and was able to take nine months off on full pay followed by three months on half pay.
She will benefit from the enhanced policy this time round after just giving birth to her second daughter Sophie.
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According to the latest figures, women make up just four per cent of the UK's firefighting force, up just one per cent since 2006. That makes the profession one of the most male-dominated in the UK.
A 2008 report from the Audit Commission on the lack of women and ethnic minorities in the UK fire service suggested that there could be considerable benefits from having a more diverse workforce, including being able to reach a wider section of the public with messages about fire safety.
Diane Dunlevey, Equality and Diversity Manager at the Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service, where Emma and Jason are employed, says: We’ve recognised that by offering a good maternity package mums are more likely to return to work and when they do they tend to be happier and therefore much more productive than if they’d had to return before they were ready. And having someone return to work is better than having to recruit and train someone new. So not only do individuals benefit, the Service does too.
“We’ve had some positive feedback on the new policy and we also use it to attract more females to the service.”
Emma says: “The Service has been really supportive of me during both pregnancies, modifying my duties accordingly, whilst ensuring I could be on duty on the same days as my watch to maintain contact.
“The first year of having a new baby is such a special one and so to be able to have that with Katie without the pressure of returning to work was great. I am looking forward to repeating the experience with my second child.”
Her partner Jason is Watch Manager has also benefited from two weeks’ paternity leave on full pay, again higher than the legal minimum. He says: “Having a baby is a really stressful time so for us to not have the additional financial and emotional pressures of Emma returning to work early was a real bonus.”