A reservist is someone who is a member of the UK Reserve Forces. An independent review of the structure of the UK Reserve Forces was undertaken a couple of years ago and, as part of this review, it was decided that the reserve element will form a much larger proportion of the UK’s Armed Forces by 2018. In April this year (2015) the trained reserve strength was a total of 31,260 for the Army, Royal Navy and RAF. By 2018, the figure is hoped to be 34,900 in total, with increased training requirements for reservists.
What happens if one of your employees is a reservist?
On a day to day basis there should be no significant impact upon the workplace, however, employers do have legal responsibilities with regard to the liability of reservists for mobilisation and their reinstatement at work afterwards.
There is no statutory requirement for a warning period prior to a reservist being mobilised, although the MoD do try to give 28 days notice wherever possible. A company can seek exemption, deferral or revocation of the mobilisation if it would cause serious harm to the business.
Do I have to pay my employee during mobilisation?
An employer’s obligation to pay salary and associated benefits stops for the duration of the mobilisation. The reservist will be on military pay and will be able to claim for any lost benefits (including employer pension contributions) from the MoD. The employer will also receive financial assistance if it incurs additional costs in finding a temporary replacement (e.g. agency costs) or needs to re-train the reservist on their return to work. Additional costs are currently capped at a maximum rate of £110 per day.
On 1 October 2014 the Reserve Forces (Payments to Employers and Partners) Regulations came into force which allow small and medium employers to receive up to £500 per month for each full month an employee (who is a reservist) is absent from work due to being called to complete their military reservist duties. This amount will be reduced on a pro rata basis for parts of a month, or part-time workers.
What about time off and holiday leave?
Employers are not obliged to give reservist employees additional time-off for training (paid or unpaid) but many still do so because the skills that a reservist learns during their training can also be extremely beneficial in the workplace.
Employers are also not obliged to allow reservists to accrue annual leave whilst mobilised. Reservists will accrue leave with the MoD whilst in service and when their mobilisation ends they will get a period of post operational leave.
What happens when mobilisation ends?
When the reservist’s mobilisation ends the employer is obliged to reinstate them in the same role as before or in suitable alternative employment. There are set periods of time for which they must be re-employed and these vary from 13 to 52 weeks depending on the length of their service before mobilisation.
It is a criminal offence to terminate a reservist’s employment without their consent solely or mainly because there is a possibility that they could be mobilised. In a redundancy situation, reservists can be included in the redundancy pool but the redundancy criteria must not discriminate against them because of their liability to be mobilised.
Reservists can be mobilised for anything from 3 months to 1 year and it is often not possible for the MoD to give the employer a precise return date, which can be a little inconvenient for an employer. However, with the additional costs of finding a replacement covered by the MoD and the average reservist receiving training in core skills which could cost an employer over £9,000 per year to provide, reservists can be a great asset to an organisation.
A clear HR policy is key to ensure that both line managers and reservists understand company policy and that reservists are treated consistently.
The Government has produced guidance on the issues to consider when employing a reservist.