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Wholetime FAQ's

I’ve heard that you are taking on your new staff as apprentices. Does this mean I’m too old and will I earn the minimum wage during the apprenticeship?

You’re quite right that all new firefighters will be undertaking a Level 3 apprenticeship in fire and rescue operations but as long as you are over 18 on  the first day of training, then you can apply. 

All firefighters undertake a period of development after their basic training and this is all covered within the apprenticeship. It is expected that you would complete the apprenticeship in less than three years, which you start following the initial training course.  During the apprenticeship you will be paid the nationally agreed rate of pay for firefighters in development.  As a trainee firefighter during your basic training the basic salary is currently £22,459 rising to £23,394 during your apprenticeship.  The rate of pay for a competent firefighter is currently £29,934.  

I know that the firefighter role is changing but I’m worried about maintaining my fitness into my fifties. What opportunities are there to specialise within the service?

All staff are supported by a health and wellbeing team and we have fitness equipment on most of our premises so firefighters are encouraged to keep fit and healthy. There are many opportunities to learn new skills and diversify your work by specialising in prevention, protection, training or appliance, equipment and policy development in the emergency response team. The new duty to collaborate with the other emergency services is likely to open up even more interesting opportunities. Staying on a watch does not mean that opportunities for development are not available; there are specialist skills needed in all workplaces and staff are encouraged to learn continuously. All operational staff are required to maintain their fitness and operational competence even if they are in a specialised post and not based on a watch.

Why do you want people from underrepresented groups?

We are sure that our collective mind is better than any one of us in isolation so the more people we have from different backgrounds and with different life experiences the better the solutions to the problems we come across will be. In addition to this having a more diverse workforce makes us more open to all members of our community; people prefer to talk openly to people they feel comfortable with. A characteristic of all fire service employees is a desire to help people and learn new things. Working with people who are different from you means we can better help more people and learn more for ourselves.

Is the fire service family friendly? I’ve heard that I will have to work nights, weekends and holidays?

The Service is a 24/7 organisation and, as a firefighter, you will work an average 42 hour week but there are two shift patterns available, one involving two days, two nights and four rest days, the other, just day shifts which entails working five shifts one week and two the next with alternate weekends being worked.  Annual leave is very generous and a firefighter in their first three years can expect to work 152 shifts per year after leave is factored in. The Service has one of the most generous maternity policies in the UK.  You will have to work bank holidays if this falls on a day when you should be on duty but you will be able to take that day off at another time.

Isn’t the firefighter’s job dangerous?

On the face of it, yes it can be. The places we require you to work can be dangerous which is why people need to be rescued from them. Fires, watercourses and environments containing hazardous substances are all places that you will go to as a firefighter but your training and equipment all contribute to “the safe person concept”.  Although we cannot immediately make where we need to work safe, our staff are fully trained to operate within the environment they are in and we also ensure that the personal protective equipment and tools we provide keep you as safe as possible, despite any workplace hazards.

I wear glasses/ have had laser eye surgery. Can I apply?

Yes. Firefighters require good vision in both eyes and part of the recruitment process will include an eye test. However you will need to meet the standards of vision which requires a minimum uncorrected vision (i.e. without glasses) of 6/18 in the better eye and 6/24 in the worse eye and corrected vision (i.e. with glasses), should be 6/9 binocularly, and a minimum of 6/12 in the worse eye.  You will be required to provide us with evidence of your current eyesight standard during the recruitment process so if you have any concerns, we suggest that you have an up to date eye test to check your own standard of vision before applying. 

What qualifications do I need?

You don’t need any specific qualifications to become a firefighter but you will be asked to demonstrate a reasonable standard of verbal and numerical capability through the recruitment process.  We will also assess your approach to risk and behaviour in difficult situations.

Can I choose which station to work at?

Candidates will be placed at stations where there are vacancies. Firefighters may also be required to transfer and work at other stations in the county.

How does the shift pattern work?

The shifts work on a rolling rota basis. At our 24 hour crewed stations the shift pattern consists of two day shifts (8am – 7pm) followed by two night shifts (7pm – 8am). On the day you finish your final shift at 8am you will then be off duty for that day and the following three days before starting the shift pattern again.

If placed at a day duty station you will work day shift only (8am – 8pm) on a two week rota. Week One - Monday, Tuesday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday. Week Two - Wednesday and Thursday.

What happens if I get pregnant?

Our organisation has a number of family friendly policies including Maternity, Paternity and Shared Parental Leave. If you become pregnant or you are a breastfeeding mother you will be unable to attend operational incidents for health and safety reasons. You will be required to undertake your contracted hours focusing on work within the community or business fire safety. The hours worked will be discussed and agreed with your Station Manager. Subject to a minimum of a year’s service and returning to work following your pregnancy you will be eligible for a maternity package of nine months off at full pay, followed by three months at half pay.

Do you offer childcare vouchers?

We offer Childcare Vouchers for participating providers through the Co-operative Flexible Benefits scheme and these vouchers can be deducted from your salary. 

What is the leave entitlement and how is leave selected?

The leave entitlement is allocated to you in line with the National Joint Council for Local Authorities Fire Brigades Grey Book terms and conditions. Watches will have a system for leave requests to ensure this is done in a fair way. All your leave should be requested and agreed at the beginning of each leave year, with a couple of “floating” days to be taken on a flexible basis. Due to the operational requirement firefighters are expected to work bank holidays if this coincides with their shift pattern.

What is the minimum and maximum age for joining to become a firefighter?

The minimum age for joining is 18 years old, which you must be at the start of the training course. There is no maximum age.

How tall do you need to be to become a firefighter?

There is no minimum or maximum height within the fire and rescue service.

How long does the recruitment process take?

The recruitment process can take many months. It usually takes around six months but could take up to a year from application to actually commencing employment, depending on the timing of vacancies.

I have a criminal record. Can I still apply and join as a firefighter?

Having a criminal record will not necessarily prevent you from becoming a firefighter. You are required to declare any convictions for offences that are not spent under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. This includes any offences dealt with by a court of law, HM Services disciplinary procedures and any driving offences.  Before an offer of employment is made a disclosure document from the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) may be obtained. If, at any stage, a conviction is highlighted that you have not declared, your application will be withdrawn from the recruitment process.

I have a disability/medical condition. Can I still become a firefighter?

Yes. A disability is defined by the act as: anyone who has a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long term adverse effect on his/her ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. You will be asked if you have a disability as part of the recruitment process and to give details of the type of adjustments you may require in order to take part in the selection process and to fulfil the role of a firefighter, should you be successful. Each case will be considered on an individual basis and if reasonable adjustments can be made to enable you to take part in the selection process and to fulfil the role of a firefighter, then your application will proceed.

I am dyslexic. Will I be able to cope with the online tests?

Dyslexia is classed as a disability and you will be asked if you have a disability as part of the recruitment process. When you get to the timed online tests you will be asked if you suffer with dyslexia and you should answer “yes”. You will then be given additional time to undertake the assessments. You will be required to provide evidence of your dyslexia.

How fit do you have to be to become a firefighter?

You will need to be reasonably fit and maintain your fitness levels throughout your career as a firefighter. You will be required to undertake a fitness test to determine your aerobic capacity is at least a VO2 max level of 42. You are also required to maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle. To improve your fitness levels we recommend you follow the Fit4Fire programme