With the announcement today of the scaling back of the British Armed Forces and the increasing reliance on the reservists, commonly known as the Territorial Army (TA), do you know what your exposure and responsibilities are?
If you have a member of the TA working for you, then you are legally obliged to allow them time off for both training and manoeuvres. This time does not have to be paid, but will inevitably cause disruption to your business.
So what are your rights as an employer and how can you mitigate the impact?
Firstly, you only have an obligation to full and part time employees, not to contractors or freelancers.
If there is a mobilisation, i.e. the employee is called into action as a member of the TA, the employer has no choice, they have to let them go. The employer is also required to give them a job back on their return.
An employer is not legally obliged to release TA members for camps and training, although given enough notice, employers are encouraged to release staff as a better trained employee is arguably of greater value to both the TA and their employer. Any time off for these purposes could be taken from annual leave, could be unpaid, or in addition to normal annual leave entitlement. The Company’s documented and communicated policy is essential for clarity.
While on mobilisations, there is no salary cost to the employer, the employee’s ‘salary’ is met by the MOD. Benefits should remain in place such as company contributions to a pension scheme (unless they join the armed forces pension scheme) and healthcare insurance etc.
There are three elements to the mobilisation: Training, Active Service and Post Service Leave. An employee could be absent from work for 3 – 12 months.
On return from mobilisation, the employer is obliged to reinstate the employee into a role which is the same or as close as reasonably practicable to their original job.
So, now you know what your obligations are, what can you do while your employee is away?
Well, you shouldn’t fill their position permanently. Ideally aim to have someone acting up into their role or split their responsibilities among other employees. You could take on a temporary member of staff on a fixed term contract as if you are covering maternity leave. Think about what the business needs, you may bring someone in to do part of the role, you may use it as a training experience for an existing member of staff.
Communicate to others what is happening and ensure the employee and their team understand how the work will be covered in the short term.
What is your experience of reservists in the workplace? How have you dealt with absence during manoeuvres? Have you ever taken the decision not to hire someone because they are a reservist?