I employ a retained fire fighter

Introduction

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Information and advice for employers

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By supporting your employee to be a retained fire fighter, you are helping to provide a vital service to your community.

Retained fire fighters deliver the same range of emergency services as their wholetime colleagues, including attending fires, floods, road traffic collisions, chemical spills and more. They couldn’t do it without your assistance and support.

Most of the information below is taken from the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service Employers Pack. Please have a look at the rest of this website to get a better understanding of the challenges your employee faces and what you can do to help.

Thank you for being part of the wider fire and rescue family.

Information and advice for employers

How much time will my employee have to commit to being an retained firefighter?
The SFRS is committed to offering retained firefighters flexible contracts and working hours to ensure a healthy work/life balance.

Retained firefighters choose the cover they agree to provide i.e. evening, daytime or weekend, with full-time cover being 120 hours per week. They may not choose to carry their pager through working hours, but they must declare their employment with SFRS to you, under the Working Time Regulations, to ensure there are periods of rest between periods of work.

In most instances your employee should be able to provide you with their rota on a weekly basis and the needs and requirements of you as the primary employer will have priority.

If your employee is called out for emergency response during working hours, we cannot confirm how long they will be away, this is all dependent on the scale of the emergency.  
What if my employee is out all night at an incident and is unfit for work the next day?
Nowadays it is less likely for firefighters to remain at incidents for a long period of time. At prolonged incidents, personnel would normally be relieved after 4 hours – this can vary depending on the nature of the incident.

In the event of a false alarm call, they may be back within 20 minutes. Most incidents are resolved in approximately one hour.
If my employee is called out to attend an emergency, am I obliged to let them go regardless of my organisation’s needs?
No. Retained firefighters will indicate their availability in advance to SFRS so when an incident arises, all those who have indicated their availability will be paged but only those that are available are expected to respond and attend.
What sort of training and development will my employee undertake?
All firefighters go through rigorous training and development programme which is provided by SFRS.

They will develop skills in a range of areas including first aid, health and safety, leadership and large goods vehicles training. All of which they can bring back to the workplace.
How long will my employee be required to take time away from work for training?
Firefighters must be highly skilled if they are to work safely and effectively in the wide range of operational incidents they are called upon to attend.

Within the first year it is likely that your employee may need 4 weeks off work in total to attend the two week initial comprehensive training course and the two week breathing apparatus training.

During their retained career they are required to attend weekly training to maintain competence in various skill sets. SFRS will aim to reduce the impact on the primary employer by providing this training on station at nights and during weekends thereby reducing the time required for training during weekdays.
My employees are often on call for business. How would these patterns of work run alongside each other?
They would not be on call with SFRS if they were on call with you. As the primary employer, you will always have priority.
If my employee is called out, how long they will be gone for?
In the event of a false alarm call, they may be back within 20 minutes. Most incidents last, on average, one hour and 15 minutes.
What should we do when they return to the workplace?
When they return from a call out they may have dealt with something relatively straightforward (e.g. automatic fire alarm) or attended something potentially traumatic, like a fatal road traffic collision. It is helpful to remember this because they may return to work in different mindset to when they left 2 hours ago.

It is your employee’s responsibility to make sure they’re physically and mentally fit to return to their workplace and they will become adept at managing this transition. However, we recommend you talk to them about how you and they can best deal with this and then let other workmates know. They might appreciate a cuppa and a quick “You OK?”  but are unlikely to want (or be able) to discuss the incident they’ve attended. Take your lead from them.

It is normal for people to be a bit preoccupied after they’ve attended an upsetting job so don’t be surprised if they’re a bit quieter for a few days, or perhaps a week or two. You can understand more about reactions to trauma and stress on this website.

If you’re worried about them, ask how they are. It may or may not be something to do with their responder role, but they will appreciate you asking. Have a look at the advice on the Good management and Leadership page.  
What if my employee gets injured while at an incident?
Retained firefighters are trained to a high standard before they are fully operational therefore this is a very rare occurrence.

In the event this does happen, SFRS has a policy in place for compensating the employee for any loss of earnings after Statutory Sick Pay. Details can be obtained from SFRS.

Retained firefighters have access to support through NHS Lothian’s Rivers Centre for Traumatic Stress should they sustain a psychological injury in their responder role.
Can I find out more about call out patterns?
SFRS can provide you with a copy of the annual report of the incidents which they attend in your area. This will allow you to see the positive commitment you are making within your community and the likely implications for your employee and yourself, in terms of incident activity. Please request this through your local station.  

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