Last year’s Defence Review makes clear that by 2018, the trained strength of our Reserve Forces must grow by 50 per cent, meaning numbers in the Territorial Army will have to rise to 30,000, and that of the Royal Navy and Royal Marine Reserves to 3,100 and the Royal Auxiliary Air Force, to 1,800.
The impact on employers will be pronounced. Reservists will have to sign-up to a specific training period and be liable for a mobilisation period that could last up to 12 months. Employers will be expected to be as accommodating and as flexible as possible.
No doubt the £1.8bn earmarked for investment will help, but the challenge for the Government will be how to convert that expectation into something tangible because, as the Defense Secretary Philip Hammond makes clear, ‘the scale of change needs the support of society as a whole and of employers in particular’.
If the employers with whom we have come into contact are anything to go by, news this week that the Duke of Westminster has been railing against them, will come as a disappointment. While some Reservists do encounter problems, there are many thousands of employers who are supportive and they should not be ignored.
One such employer explained to us that it was the ability of an employee to commit to TA training that impressed him the most. “It’s about somebody who can make a commitment in one area of their life and prove their reliability in others. It demonstrates the kind of dedication that employers are looking for.”
SaBRE research shows that 78% of employers feel that the Reserve Forces are necessary; 63% feel that they are an asset; 67% say they should be supported as a matter of principle; and 87% said they would be very supportive if an employee were mobilised.
These employers are the best advocates we have. Upsetting them is more likely to mute their enthusiasm at a time when we should be doing all we can to encourage it.
It is also likely to impact on the consultation exercise due to start this autumn, the results of which will shape the Government’s role as employer and the legislative changes that will need to be put in place.
There is no question that significant change lies ahead but it will be far better to help employers understand what is being asked of them and why, than to reproach the vast majority who are on side and ready and willing to show their support.