Blazing a trail for workplace equality

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A SUNDERLAND company is helping fire brigade bosses make sure workplace discrimination goes up in smoke.

Assessment North East is working with the Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service to help hit its equality and diversity (E&D) targets.

The service has been ranked as the joint top brigade in the country in the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index, and has achieved Gold status in the Investors in People (IiP) accreditation, for which it is also a ‘champion’ organisation.

It also actively promotes the need for E&D best practice among its suppliers. The Equality Act 2010 makes it a legal requirement for public bodies to meet certain duties and obligations and to set at least one equality objective.

Tyne & Wear Fire and Rescue Service has been hailed as a ‘beacon’ organisation for its commitment to going beyond its legal obligations by setting five obligations, one of which includes working with their suppliers.

To promote the benefits of the partnership, an event was held at Tyne & Wear Fire and Rescue Service’s headquarters in Washington to encourage key suppliers to follow the service’s lead in its commitment to creating a fairer workplace and society.

John Hindmarch, Deputy Chief Fire Officer at Tyne & Wear Fire and Rescue Service, said he took great pride in the achievements that have been made in promoting E&D within the organisation, and in the supplier chain and wider community.

“It doesn’t take legislation for us to act – it is because we believe in equality and diversity, and are passionate about it. We will continue to strive to lead the way, and help E&D become the norm and not the exception,” he said.

Stephen Roberts, Deputy Procurement Manager with Tyne & Wear Fire and Rescue Service, said the service receives many tenders for its contracts, so ensuring E&D policies are adhered to is now more important than ever before.

“What is legally required is the minimum acceptable standard – we will certainly be looking for best practice in E&D when it comes to awarding contracts to suppliers,” he said.

“We are committed to making our tenders as open to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as possible – for example, we have harmonised documents with other fire services in the region, and reduce contract sizes to smaller lots where possible – so we are trying to be as accessible as we possibly can be.”

Rob Macleod, Managing Director of Assessment North East, praised Tyne & Wear Fire and Rescue Service for its commitment to E&D.

“The service really is a beacon in terms of its promotion of E&D, not just in its own workplace, but also in the community it serves, and in its chain of suppliers and service providers. It is really helping to lead the way in a field where many businesses have yet to realise its importance. We are very pleased to have worked with the service, and will help them to continue to achieve their goals,” he said.