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Equality, diversity and inclusion

Whoever we are and wherever we’re from, we stand together as one crew.

We are one crew

The RNLI is the charity that saves lives at sea. No matter how someone gets into difficulty, who they are or where they’re from, our lifesavers will answer the call. Knowing that someone needs our help has always been enough for us to act. Nearly 200 years ago, RNLI founder Sir William Hillary called for volunteers to rescue ‘every stranger’ – anybody in peril.

In the same way that the RNLI saves lives at sea without prejudice, we aspire to be a charity where all our people are truly valued for who they are. 

It takes a deep level of trust to save lives at sea together. That kind of trust only comes from people knowing that they can truly be themselves – and be accepted for it.

In our crew, everyone should be able to be themselves and reach their full potential. 

Embracing the diversity of RNLI people and the communities we work in helps us deliver innovative solutions that save more lives and prevent drowning. We understand that it takes a wide range of diverse minds, abilities, cultures and experiences to engage effectively with communities – and this is what we’re building within the RNLI. 

An image of an RNLI lifeguard reaching towards the hand of a person in the water, taken from the point of view of the person in the water.


How we’re working to better serve our people 

Everyone is welcome at the RNLI. We believe that our volunteers and staff should be empowered to thrive in their roles and give back to their communities without experiencing exclusion, disadvantage or discrimination. 

These are some of the ways we’re working to ensure equality, diversity and inclusion at the RNLI: 

  • Our pledge: We are one crew. We work and volunteer together with passion, talent and kindness – whoever we are and wherever we’re from. Our one crew pledge (PDF 1.6MB) underpins how we work together with our communities. This statement outlines the spirit in which the RNLI, our volunteers and staff will act to achieve our lifesaving goals.

  • Volunteer Commitment: The vast majority of RNLI people are volunteers – ordinary people, doing extraordinary things! At the heart of our volunteer ethos is the Volunteer Commitment, which is a statement of the hopes and expectations between the RNLI and volunteers.

  • People networks: People networks are groups from across the RNLI who are committed to diversity, equality and inclusion. We have four active people networks here – the Disability Network, Race Equality Network, Harbour Network (LGBT+ network - lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) and the Young Professional Network. They help us to identify what we already do well and influence our charity to act when change is needed. Staff and volunteers can find out more and connect with the networks through our intranet.

  • Harbour accreditations: Brighton Lifeboat Station became the first Harbour-accredited station within the RNLI in 2019. To achieve a Harbour accreditation, our lifeboat stations must meet criteria that demonstrate they provide a welcoming and supportive environment for all volunteers, staff, visitors and casualties – one that is fully inclusive of LGBT+ people.

  • Action and leadership groups: Action and leadership groups exist to drive change across our charity. They are made up of volunteers, staff, trustees and members of our Executive Team, and represent the voices of volunteers and staff to our chair, council and trustees. We currently have two groups, the I&D Leadership Group and the Racism, Discrimination & Diversity Action Team.

  • Flexible working: Our flexible working and volunteering options help everyone to fulfil their role at the RNLI, wherever they’re based and whatever responsibilities they need to work around. Flexible working options can also help parents return to work or volunteering, help people with variable health conditions stay in work and help carers balance their responsibilities.

  • Gender pay gap reporting: As an organisation that employs over 250 people in Great Britain, the RNLI is legally required to publish its gender pay gap figures. You can view our Gender Pay Gap reports from 2017 onwards on our website.

We also work with existing charities and organisations to help us improve equality, inclusion and diversity at the RNLI. 

We are recognised as a Stonewall Diversity Champion and are also part of the UK Government’s Disability Confident Scheme.  

Stonewall Diversity Champion logo Disability Confident logo

How we’re working to better serve our communities 

In a rapidly changing world, we must respond to the needs of our communities. We believe that everyone should have access to water safety education and advice. 

Some of the ways we’re working to support our communities include: 

  • Swim Safe lessons for children: We want to make sure vital water safety education is accessible to children from low-income families. In partnership with Swim England, the RNLI offers free water safety sessions for children at a range of different locations, through Swim Safe.

  • Partnerships for water safety: We are working together with local and community organisations, including the Black Swimming Association, and are looking to work with others, to help spread water safety messages to diverse communities.

  • Multi-lingual safety resources: Language shouldn’t be a barrier to getting our safety messages out to the diverse communities across the UK and Ireland. We’ve translated safety resources in 19 different languages, to reach as many people as we can with our safety messages. 

  • Supporting Pride: The RNLI has a presence at Pride events in the UK and Ireland to show support for LGBT+ people in our communities, and to share our lifesaving advice with a wider audience.

  • Working with inland communities: We want to ensure our education work reaches as many children as possible, and we recognise that many children live within inland towns and cities, rather than coastal communities. Our team of water safety volunteers and staff work with schools and clubs throughout the UK and Ireland so that children can learn how to stay safe near open water, whether or not they live near the coast.
Four children of different ethnicities wade into the water together beside a jetty at a lake, linking arms and holding tube floats under their armpits. They wear red or yellow swim hats, neon green Swim Safe T-shirts and happy smiles on their faces!

RNLI/Nathan Williams

This is our watch

Our Watch is the RNLI’s strategic intent for 2020–2024. Within it, there are six outcomes that we’re working towards to ensure our charity can continue saving lives for another 200 years, and help achieve our vision to save every one in the UK, Ireland and internationally.

We want to retain and recruit the best people who’ll be able to bring a diverse range of perspectives and skills to their roles, and truly represent our communities. 

As part of the strategy outlined in Our Watch, we will:

  • Attract more volunteers and staff from a variety of backgrounds.
  • Engage with new audiences and inspire our existing supporters to raise awareness of water safety in the UK, Ireland and internationally.
  • Work with partners to understand and prepare for the lifesaving challenges of the future.
  • Reach out to younger generations to ensure our future is sustainable and secure.

How do we measure our progress? 

The RNLI measures progress against our outcomes in our Annual Reports and Accounts, which are published on our website

Our policies

We respect people’s views, interests and uniqueness. We do not tolerate disrespectful behaviour towards each other, our supporters, or members of the public. 

Our lifesaving work is underpinned by equality legislation and RNLI policy. We take pride in our values, and will continue working to make our charity a place that every RNLI volunteer, staff member and supporter can take pride in.