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Paul Carter

HR Writer

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How HR can help support the Reserve Armed Forces


Working in HR I am used to dealing with difficult questions and addressing people’s fears, but “What if I die?” is a tough one to answer when people are convinced military service means do or die charges across the battlefield.

With reservists set to play a key role in the UK’s Armed Forces, people who want to serve their country and keep their careers have many questions about taking that step into the unknown.  As a Civil Service Reserves Champion I have to dispel the myths to help people decide if they are ready for the challenge.

Find a role that suits you

There’s more to reserve service than combat with over 200 exciting and rewarding roles across the Army, Navy and RAF. This includes media operations, intelligence, medical services, engineering, languages, catering, military police, IT and cyber divisions and HR and administration. Reservists get paid, enhance their leadership capabilities and gain transferable skills for the workplace.

Am I a soldier?

“Why haven’t you joined?” was a question I struggled to answer when publicising the Reserve Forces. As “no comment” is rarely an option for HR advisors promoting a campaign, I attended a Reserve Forces engagement event to find out if I have what it takes to be a soldier.

People from a range of professions were in uniform to give their first-hand accounts of training, mobilisation and operations. This helped attendees see past the marketing blurb and myths of reserve service and understand what they would gain from joining. The weekend warrior stereotype no longer exists. Reservists serve alongside regular soldiers in military and humanitarian operations abroad and in the UK.

First in the queue for the simulated firing range, I picked up the SA80 and took aim, but after scoring 0/10 I was advised to give the infantry a miss. Maybe it’s not for me, but I am glad I found out and encourage anyone who is interested to do the same, or you may always have that ‘what if’ scenario playing on your mind.

Multiskilled professionals in uniform

“In the two world wars it was men and women who were civilians first that won the battles for survival,” says former military officer and barrister Frank Ledwidge in his book Losing small wars. Describing the important role that reservists can play in increasing the UK’s military capability, he says, “The population as a whole contains far more expertise and skill – and indeed potential to develop both – than the rather narrow sliver of society that comprises the regular and reserve forces.”

What HR can do

I may never be a war hero but as a Reserves Champion I can ensure good governance.  Civil servants who want to become reservists need someone who can guide them through the application process. They need to know how it would affect their terms and conditions, job security, workload and performance reviews. They need HR.

I cannot tell a civil servant if they will be deployed to a war zone, but I can tell them the Civil Service will support them every step of the way if they decide to join the Reserve Forces.

The biggest change affecting employers is that reservists will need to be available on a more guaranteed basis. With over 20,000 men and women already in the Reserve Forces and more expected to join, does your organisation have a reservist policy? A question for HR teams to answer.

Find out more

The Reserve Forces offer a variety of rewarding roles in the Royal Naval Reserve and the Royal Marines Reserve, the Army Reserve and the Royal Auxiliary Air Force. Most units recruit women and almost all roles are open to both sexes. Age range for most units is 18 to 49, although there are higher age limits for professional or specialist applicants. The time commitment depends on what type of unit you join, usually ranging from 19 to 27 days a year spread across evenings, weekends and a two-week annual training camp.

Download a reservist policy

You can download a reservist policy from MOD’s Supporting Britain’s Reservists and Employers website and access information on financial assistance, mobilisation and how to become a supportive employer. 

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Paul Carter

HR Writer

Read more from Paul Carter

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