The MOD recently announced that by 2020, the Regular Army will be cut from 102,000 to 82,000 while the numbers in our Reserve Forces is set to grow, boosted by a £1.8bn investment in recruitment, training and equipment. A shift is taking place – one that will see a greater reliance on our Reserve Forces but also on employers, who while in the past may have helped by allowing extra days leave, will now need to show more support.

The recommendations on future numbers of the Army are outlined in the Future Reserves 2020 study. It recommends not only an increase in the numbers of trained Reservists, but also restructuring and improving training, drawing on greater specialisms, and using more formed units. The MOD has recently announced its intention to conduct a consultation with employers on the recommendations and said it will publish the results in the Autumn.

The proposed changes warrant a new approach, one that rethinks how we recognise the vital support that employers bring to the process of recruitment and retention. The alternative would be something more directive that requires employers to play ball for fear of penalty and that risks creating a fissure in a crucial relationship.

Such a directive could be avoided if we look at good practice elsewhere, especially in countries like the USA and Australia where Reserve Forces make up a higher proportion of the Armed Forces and enjoy greater support from the public as a result. Experience there suggests that boosting numbers will have a knock on beneficial effect on employers too, increasing their understanding of the Reservist’s role and offering wider appreciation of the vital part that they play.

SaBRE presents supportive employers with a certificate of support signed by the Secretary of State, however employers in the UK don’t receive much other recognition for their support.  It could be that putting in place something like the national ceremony recognising outstanding employers in Australia, will make a positive difference. Or using the US example, where the President has proclaimed a week of employer support for their Guards and Reserves where their national awards ceremony is a key event.

A similar approach adopted here could be the additional measure needed.  Something on a grand scale such as a category of theSun Military awards.  Currently they don’t have an awards category for ‘Outstanding Employer of Reservists’ but perhaps this could be looked into.

One thing that will not change is that we know that the emotional health of Reservists is bolstered by having the full support of family, friends and employers. Whatever initiatives are ultimately put in place, every effort must be made to ensure that vital support is always known and in place.

More information on the Future Reserves 2020 study and what this means for employers can be found at