Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service is celebrating after once again making it into Stonewall’s annual list of the UK’s top 100 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) friendly employers.

After making the Top100 of the Workplace Equality Index for the first time in 2013, the Service increased its ranking by 20 places, achieving the 25th slot and placing it in the top quarter of organisations.

Deputy Chair of the Fire Authority, Cllr Stef Nelson said: “Making the Top100 for a second year is something we are incredibly proud of. It demonstrates that the culture of the fire and rescue service is changing for the better. We are totally committed to getting the most out of every single member of staff and developing an inclusive working environment where our staff feel valued regardless of their background or sexual orientation”.

Stonewall is a national organisation that works to achieve equality for lesbians, gay men and bisexual people. The Index has been running for ten years and is seen as the definitive benchmark for gay-friendly employers.

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Nearly 400 organisations entered the 2014 Index, including some of the UK’s (and the world’s) largest and most successful firms. The Service was the joint-highest scoring organisation based solely in the North West.

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The Workplace Equality Index provides an audit for workplace culture and ranks the top employers for LGBT staff through a 25-question evidenced assessment, focussed on the approach and mechanisms for supporting LGBT employees, customers and communities.

Chief Fire Office Paul Hancock, who is the senior sponsor of the Service’s LGBT staff network, added: “I am delighted that our organisation has again improved its placing in Stonewall’s Top 100 this year. It reflects the hard work invested by our staff and volunteers, not only in ensuring that our people can perform at their best and be themselves, but also so that LGBT people across Cheshire know that we are here to support them. Our aim is always to deliver an excellent fire and rescue service and to do that we need people from every background.”

Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service has an active LGBT employee network group, Firepride, which has once again been accredited as a ‘Star Performing Network’. This means that it has been recognised as ‘making an invaluable contribution to the experience of LGBT staff in the organisation and beyond’.