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Supporting army reserves in the workplace

Kate Palmer, HR Advice & Consultancy Director - Peninsula

Wednesday 22 June marked Reserves Day; an opportunity to recognise and celebrate the contribution that reserves make to our Armed Forces.

There are nearly 200,000 reservists in the UK; that’s a lot of employees who will need to depend on the support of their employers should they be called up.

To this end, many employers may have questions as to what happens in such a scenario.

HR Advice & Consultancy Director at Peninsula, Kate Palmer, shares her advice:

“It may be that some reservists are never mobilised (called up to active duty), but if they are, they’ll usually be given a 28-day notice period. They should notify their employer as soon as possible once they receive the orders.

“Employers can appeal, but this would only ever be accepted if they could demonstrate that it would seriously harm their business. I would encourage employers to be as supportive and adaptable as possible in this situation.

“Employers will be sent a pack about their rights and responsibilities should a reservist be called up. The most important aspect to note is that reservists have a right to return to the same job following their service and will not be treated at any detriment because of it.

“If this doesn’t happen then employers can find themselves on the receiving end of a discrimination claim, which could result in unlimited compensation.

“There is financial aid available to employers whose employees are mobilised, including:

  • The cost of a temporary replacement if it’s more than the reservist’s salary (up to £110 a day)
  • Advertising costs and agency fees for finding a replacement
  • A period of handover and takeover (5 days before and after mobilisation)
  • 75% of the cost of specialist clothing for the replacement (up to £300)
  • Training costs for the replacement (up to £2,000)
  • Overtime, if other employees cover the work
  • Costs of any training the reservist needs when returning to their job

“The Ministry of Defence will pay the employee’s salary or pension contributions during the period of mobilisation, and businesses with an annual turnover of less than £25.9 million and fewer than 250 employees can also claim an extra £500 employer incentive payment.

“Reservists are expected to commit at least 19 training days per year. Most of this can usually be fitted around their day jobs and in the weekends and evenings, but there may be instances where an employee requests time off for such a purpose – for example, to attend an annual training camp.  Some of these may be mandatory dates that the employee is required to attend, in which case they should discuss this with you when submitting their leave request.

“Employers do not have to allow additional time off for training and, most times, these requests can be treated as normal annual leave or unpaid leave. Some may choose to extend paid leave to cover any mandatory military training as a measure of additional support.

“It’s well worth employers implementing a specific reservist policy detailing how handovers will be managed in case of deployment as well as the processes in place to support the reservist when they return. That could include undergoing training, making use of an employee assistance programme or other support systems, or embracing additional skills and experiences that they have gained during mobilisation to help them better fulfil their potential.

“Remember, if a reservist is mobilised they will usually be going into a hostile environment or potential war zone. Adjusting back to their ‘normal’ life afterwards could take some time, especially if they experienced conflict, so you should ensure that proper support is available.”

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