‘I Find it Daunting.. That I’m Gonna Have to Deal with This until 60’: Extended Working Lives and the Sustainable Employability of Operational Firefighters

Valerie Egdell*, Rima Hussein, Deborah Harrison, Anna Katharina Bader, Rob Wilson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


While operational firefighters in the UK fire and rescue service traditionally retired in their 50s, their working lives are now extending. However, external pressures and the emotional and physical demands of firefighting work, lead to questions about whether operational firefighters will be able to extend their working lives. In this article, we engage with Van der Klink et al.’s sustainable employability model, which focuses on situations that allow individuals to make valuable contributions through their work and reveal how working lives can be extended. We consider implications of the characteristics of operational firefighting work, individual circumstances and contextual factors for the extension of working lives. Drawing on interviews conducted with firefighters, crew managers and watch managers working in a UK fire and rescue service, we highlight the unsustainability of many future working lives because of wellbeing and organisational pressures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)721-739
Number of pages19
JournalWork, Employment and Society
Issue number3
Early online date15 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: The research on which this article is based was funded by the participating UK-FRS (who we do not specifically identify for purposes of anonymity). The analysis in this article reflects the views of the authors alone.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2021.


  • extended working lives
  • fire and rescue service
  • firefighters
  • sustainable employability

Cite this