Employers Do Your Duty, Pretty Please

The SDSR made it abundantly clear that the armed forces would have a greater reliance on reserve forces, primarily the Territorial Army (although the other services have a growing reserve element) but the important questions of employer engagement were neatly ducked.

The strategy seemed to be characterised by one word;

Hope

Reported by the Telegraph today were comments from Phil Hammond MP, Secretary of State for Defence, about employer engagement and these were repeated in an MoD announcement.

Those in the civil service (although local and regional government might be very different) already get paid leave for reserve duties exclusive of deployments covered by the Reserve Forces act 1996 so  it seems Mr Hammond is calling on the private sector to do the same.

The prospect of primary legislation that compelled employers to release people for training activities was always going to be remote whilst we are both in the teeth of a serious economic downtime and not facing an urgent defence threat.

This was widely predicted as being a critical stumbling block to much increased reliance on reservists.

It might be easy for the Government to lead by example because it essentially has a great big pot of cash and plenty of people but for the majority of employers that are struggling with the economic environment it is entirely a different challenge.

Lets not forget that the reservist will be paid for their training time, funded by their employer through corporation tax and employers national insurance.

Why should they then be expected to pay twice, once via taxation that pays the reservists wages and twice for the disruption and temporary staff costs whilst they are away on training?

Those stating that employers should ‘do their bit’ invariably do so from the comfort of the public purse, funded by taxes levied on employers so I think it is basically one great big piss take to expect them to do more and it should be painfully obvious to those that inhabit the real world that being lectured to by the defence minister is unlikely to compensate for losing key staff.

This means in practice that in future, the majority of reservists will likely be employed in the public sector.

So back to what Phil Hammond said;

In the future, the Reserves will form an integral and integrated part of the Armed Forces so it is essential they have time to train. The Government is showing its commitment by taking the lead as an employer of reservists and we hope other employers will follow suit

See what I was saying about hope

 

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Brian Black
Brian Black
October 7, 2012 6:56 pm

Joining the TA requires an ongoing evening and weekend commitment, favouring employees who work regular hours in a steady 9 to 5 job. This pattern is now less common in the workforce. Part-time workers are more likely to have irregular hours and shift patterns compared to full-timers, and many have multiple employers too. Around the time of the Falklands War, there were roughly four full-time employees for every part-time worker; in 2010 the ratio was 2.3 to one.
If you can’t make the basic training commitment, you’re probably unlikely to even consider the reserves – and the work environment has changed since the high manning levels of the Cold War era. This is just one issue adding to the Army’s difficulty, there are other societal changes too – you can now be a soldier online from the comfort of your armchair. Why join the TA if you can fight the latest war in multi-player without getting your feet wet?

Sir_Humphrey
October 7, 2012 6:57 pm

The real challenge comes in persuading smaller companies to take on skilled staff, who they know will be required to be absent one year in five. Most will support it once, but have a serious sense of humour failure next time around.

Its hard to see there being much support for an organisation that over 20 years expects to call on 20% of your employees work time.

Fatman
Fatman
October 7, 2012 9:41 pm

Excuse me for being cynical, but I returned from TELIC 1 to being made redundant before 9 a.m. on my first morning back at work after nearly 7 months away. I left the TA to enable me to secure another post. Other comrades from my unit also left because:

* they had been discriminated against by their Regular colleagues (e.g being given all the crap kit, no ammunition, no medical kit, desert camouflage etc, even though the Regulars had made sure they had looked after themselves)
* because they were sick of the jibes and condescending treatment they received from the Regulars, many of whom were more amateur than the Reservists
* because their employers threatened to make them redundant if they remained in the Reserves
* because their work promotion prospects were under threat if they remained in the Reserves
* because their families did not want them going back on further operations
* because they had got their campaign medal/had their experience and once was enough
* because their house had been burgled and ransacked in their absence (it is more of an issue for single householders going off for months than for those with families – who pays the bills?)
* because they could not keep their businesses going if they were away for more than a month or so

When you put these all together you can see that there are considerable disincentives for joining the Reserve Forces if there is a possibility of a long deployment. Only a government whose members are largely ignorant of what it means to deploy on operations could think that cutting Regular Forces and relying on large numbers of reserves is a good idea. The use of reserves worked in 1914 and 1939 because everyone was involved in total war. It worked during the Cold War because if the Russians had come the whole of British society would have been dragged in.

Volunteering to go off to war for months when we are technically at peace will never win popular support from family, employers or society as a whole (we do not have the US National Guard ethos). This is simply a shortsighted effort to save money and cannot be taken seriously – I suspect that within a few years the stupidity of this Conservative decision will become clear.

x
x
October 7, 2012 10:09 pm

@ Fatman

As an outsider I do observe the “STAB culture” is alive and well in today’s Army.

Nobody expects it to work. If it works they make savings. If it doesn’t work they make even more savings.

martin
Editor
October 8, 2012 2:41 am

In Singapore they operate a large reserve force. Everyone man under the age of 40 is in it. The Army pay’s the full salary of the reservist on day’s he is called up no matter what the cost. It’s not uncommon to see a Lawyer or a fund manager who might be getting paid $1,000 per day cleaning shit of boots.

To make force 2020 work the government must draft new legislation that allows TA personnel to not have to tell employers about their committment but at the same time properly pay’s those employers for the lost staff hour’s. Every other country in the world seems to make this work. Why is it such a big issue in the UK?

In my opinion the Army remain’s hostile to the concept of anything other than professional soldier’s and its not prepared to fund the reserve properly. UNtil this situation changes new legislation won’t mean a dam

Phil
October 8, 2012 7:00 am

The STAB culture is a niche these days in the Regular Army. But being in the reserves and doing tours is a career smasher unless you have a particularly enlightened employer or your reservist role directly enhances your civilian role. I have changed my mind about what needs to happen in the reserves, there needs to be a complete culture change. Primary legislation is needed, they’ve hinted at it, but one wonders if it will come about.

Relatively few people can afford to do more than one tour. I did two and essentially have a 3 year black hole in my CV. Cheers easy.

Observer
Observer
October 8, 2012 10:57 am

You havn’t seen anything yet until you see a surgeon getting called back as a storeman. :) Though they did find better uses for his time later.

It’s illegal to fire someone due to National Service commitments, but you need to have a counter-threat to balance the scales. I.e you need the law on your side and a lot of angry MoD lawyers with threats of company blacklisting. Human nature. Sad really.

One of the reasons why I’m an avocate of universal conscription or none at all. If everyone gets it, no one can claim special favours, which means a “special” situation becomes “commonplace”. Unfortunately, this costs $$$, even if it’s tax rebates to companies who support this. Which means 1) It’s not a good time now. and 2) The UK needs more sources of funding. Which is why you need a sovreign wealth fund or more government owned companies that are properly run.

wf
wf
October 8, 2012 12:34 pm

, perhaps it’s time to revisit your TA article?

Phil
October 8, 2012 2:07 pm

Yes when I get the time I’d like to put my new thoughts down.

@TD

I got into the Danish Royal Armouries using the old MOD90. Amazing exhibition on Denmark in Afghan if anyone is around Copenhagen. And I mean amazing. They’ve lifted lots of stuff from PB Budwan aka FOB Armadillo and rebuilt it.

Phil
October 8, 2012 2:08 pm

Not all of it! But parts of it including a Sanger complete with MG3.

Chris.B.
Chris.B.
October 8, 2012 6:38 pm

What is the situation/potential like with regards to using reserve/TA personnel to simply carry out UK based tasks or the like on short durations, to free up regular personnel for operations?

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