Fire brigade accused of discrimination after drive to recruit more women and ethnic minorities

The fire brigade say they are striving to ‘champion equality’
The fire brigade say they are striving to ‘champion equality’

One of the largest fire services in the UK has been accused of discrimination after it was revealed that white men must score higher in recruitment tests.

By 2021, West Midlands Fire Service wants 60 per cent of new recruits to be women, and 35 per cent to be from black and minority ethnic groups.

In order to reach this target, pass rates have been altered so a greater number from these social groups score highly in the test.

For Women and people from black, Asian and minority ethnic groups to pass, they must score 60 per cent on verbal and numerical tests.

To achieve the same pass, white men have to score 70 per cent.

According to a senior source, the new recruitment programme, introduced in late 2017, costs £100,000 a year.

This includes £2,500 per month on targeted Facebook adverts aimed specifically at women.

The fire brigade have been criticised for the approach (AFP Photo/Zinyange Auntony)
The fire brigade have been criticised for the approach (AFP Photo/Zinyange Auntony)

He claims West Midlands Fire Service is the first brigade in the UK to introduce the tactic.

He said: “This directly discriminates against white men.

“This approach was intentionally adopted to directly manipulate the diversity figures to meet the targets.

“This approach to recruitment is appalling.

“Not only are they discriminating against large parts of my community, but they are also using huge amounts of public money to do so.

“There is such a negative culture within management who want to achieve their own agendas at all costs.

“I have never heard of discrimination on such an industrial scale in the public sector.

“It’s not fair on the members of the community who rightly expect the best people for the job being selected to serve on the front line.

“It’s difficult to swallow knowing people have not been able to achieve their dream careers because they are too white or too male.

West Midlands Fire Service is targeting women in Facebook recruitment adverts
West Midlands Fire Service is targeting women in Facebook recruitment adverts

“There should, of course, be measures put in place to encourage those from underrepresented groups to apply, but how would they feel if they found out they were required to perform at a lesser level because of their gender or ethnicity?”

The new recruitment process was introduced in September 2017.

It sees recruiters dip into the pool of applicants every three months to select 1,000 people to be shortlisted for the first stage – a 45 minute test into reactions.

Candidates who pass the tests are then sent a link to the numerical, verbal and mechanical reasoning exam.

But since the change, white men have to score seven out of 10 to get through to the next stage – a physical test – while women and BME candidates only have to score six.

The source claims as part of the drive, the brigade has “intentionally” not posted general adverts on job boards, in favour of women-targeted Facebook adverts.

He added: “There is intentionally no general adverts anywhere like job boards of the brigade’s own social media, in order to minimise white men applying.”

An internal memo said the process has been altered in a bid to make sure by 2020/21, 60 per cent of successful candidates are woman and 35 are BME people.

Due to the existing workforce, this would result in females making up 17 per cent of the total number of firefighters in the service, which would be 15 per cent BME.

This would make sure the force represents the general population by 2034, the memo claimed.

A spokesman for the West Midlands Fire and Rescue Service, said: “West Midlands Fire Service is committed to a having a workforce which reflects the diversity of the population of all our communities, and one that is welcoming to all.

“We are also extremely proud to have been ranked second in this year’s Top 50 UK Employers List, which recognises our continuing commitment to workplace diversity.

“Our recruitment shows our determination to challenge outdated perceptions about who can – and can’t – be a firefighter.

“We are working hard to break down barriers faced by people who could bring so much to our service and to their community.

“Our work to attract more firefighters who are women or from minority backgrounds has been praised by the Government.

“The approaches we take for recruitment and selection are carefully considered to ensure that they are appropriate, balanced and above all legal.”