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Reserves in the Future Force 2020: Valuable and Valued

The Government has published a white paper – Reserves in the Future Force 2020: Valuable and Valued.

With increasing pressure on the defence budget, the Ministry of Defence and the Army is trying to think creatively about how to protect the UK’s future military capabilities. The answer? – reduce army numbers by 20,000 and increase the number of reservists from 20, 000 to 30,000.

The political debate about whether it will be possible to find and train sufficient reservists in line with the Government’s ambitious plans and questions about whether this is “an army on the cheap” continue. Meanwhile, employers are asking what it means for them…

The Government recognises that its proposals will have an impact on employers of reservists particularly smaller ones so, it intends to make employing reservists easier and more attractive.

How will it do this – the carrots?

  • Increased financial assistance for employers of reservists will be provided. This will be aimed primarily at SMEs. The types of costs that can currently be claimed will be extended but will still include costs for finding and training replacement staff, marginal salary costs of any replacements and retraining costs when the reservist returns. The process for making claims will also be streamlined.
  • A flat rate payment of £500 per month per reservist when mobilised will be paid in addition to other costs that can be reclaimed. Again, this will be targeted at SMEs.
  • The Government will seek to persuade employers that the skills learned by reservists are transferrable to civilian roles and increase the opportunity for military qualifications to be accredited and recognised by civilian employers.
  • Establishment of the “Corporate Covenant” aimed at publicly recognising employers who support the reserve forces.
  • The Government will oversee the notification by reservists to employers of their reserve service.
  • Creating open relationships with employers based on predictability and better notice. Notice provisions will be: – 3 months before the start of the training year in April employers will be notified of the key training events that reservist have to attend; as much notice as possible of mobilisation will be given (between 28 days to the more usual 9 months) and formal notification of return from service will be given so that employers can better plan and manage the impact of their employees’ absence. Reasons for deferring mobilisation will be discussed with employers through constructive dialogue.

What’s in it for reservists – the sticks for employers?

Early legislation will be brought forward to give additional protection to reservists by providing that where their dismissal is by reason of their reservist service, they will not have to have the usual 2 years continuous service required to bring an unfair dismissal claim in the Employment Tribunal.

What should employers do now?

Watch out for the legislative changes expected soon that will drive any change in internal policies and procedures for dealing with reservists in the workforce.

These developments should also prompt employers to remind themselves of the current rights of reservists and employers’ obligations. These are set out in the Reserve Forces Act 1996 and Reserve Forces (Safeguard of Employment) Act 1985. They include obligations on an employer to re-employ a reservist employed in the 4 week period before mobilisation; to re-employ such a reservist within 6 months after demobilisation; re-employment should generally be in the same job and on terms and conditions no less favourable than those which would have applied had there been no call up. Employers do not however have to pay reservists for time off for training or for time they are absent when mobilised. There are criminal penalties for a breach of the relevant legislative provisions relating to reservists so, it is worth being aware of your obligations and the rights of reservists if there are any in your workforce!

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