Employing on-call firefighters: An interesting way to give back

Wednesday April 17, 2024

You may not know this but there are more than 14,000 on-call firefighters in England alone. They often work another job, with commitment to respond to an agreed schedule of emergencies. Together, they provide this cover to more than 90% of the UK.

For you as an employer, you may one day interview a candidate who is an on-call firefighter, or have an existing member of staff interested in becoming one. Would you see it as a bonus? A hassle? Or not have a clue how to respond?

Here is a quick guide from HR, looking at how the arrangement works, the commitments and the benefits that it may bring to you.


How does employing an on-call firefighter work?

Employing an on-call firefighter is a structured agreement in which you can determine what hours they are on-call for, in line with the requirements of your business. It is not a one way, open-ended commitment that need play havoc with your workflows.

They will work part- or full-time for you, and with the employee and your local fire and rescue service you agree what hours they are on-call for. This could be during their working hours, or on time off like overnight. It is flexible so if you experience a busy spell you should be able to make them unavailable.

Overall, though, they will need to perform a useful firefighting service, so there has to be balance. Typically, an on-call firefighter may be summoned two or three times a week, at any hour day or night, with calls usually lasting an hour. They will also need to attend training.


Your commitments

In agreeing to the schedule (and following it) you will want to establish the terms.

You don’t have to pay them while they are away, but some employers choose to (they will be paid as a firefighter, often between £5,000 to £7,000 per year). You may ask them to make up the hours another time. Due to Working Time Regulations, if they were called away to a disaster all night, you would have to give them time off to recuperate the following day.

It would be worth speaking to an expert like us to determine if any contractual changes are required.


The benefits of employing an on-call firefighter

If none of the above is a deal-breaker for you, let’s look at the benefits – and there are many.

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) benefits

In a time when consumers are interested in how the companies they purchase from give back to society, employing on-call firefighters is an interesting way to differentiate yourself. Firefighting is a vital civic function and to be helping to enable it will complement other CSR activities you may be undertaking.

A skills gain

Firefighters undergo extensive training and will bring the skills they gain into your business – from being a qualified first-aider to a natural problem solver, communication skills to leadership and teamwork. What an asset!

Personal fulfilment and productivity

Personal fulfilment is an important component to productivity. Having employees happy, healthy, motivated and living a balanced life will help with productivity in your business. Your cooperation in helping them fulfil their life goals should also help foster loyalty.

Financial well-being

The remuneration they receive from being an on-call firefighter may be very important to their financial well-being, and in turn their overall well-being.


Help with on-call firefighters

At The HR Dept, there is just about no employment scenario which we have not encountered. If you would like to explore employing an on-call firefighter successfully, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

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