Blog: Employing Armed Forces Reservists

Euan Lawrence

Euan Lawrence

Uniform to Work Day

On Wednesday 25 June reservists for our armed forces are being asked to wear their uniforms into work as part of the annual Uniform to Work Day to raise awareness in the time leading up to Armed Forces Day on 28 June. Therefore, this seems an entirely appropriate point at which to remind employers of their obligations towards employees who are reservists as well as reminding reservist employees of their rights and entitlements.

What is a reservist?

A reservist is a member of the public (not a professional soldier) who is a member of the UK’s military reserve force whilst simultaneously holding a civilian job. They are required to train for a set number of weekends each month.

Reservists commit to a minimum of either 27 days’ training per year (Regional Army Reserve) or 19 days’ training per year (National Army Reserve). Employers of reservists are under no obligation to offer additional leave to reservists in respect of training requirements.

Current legislation protecting reservists

The Reserve Forces (Safeguard of Employment) Act 1985 sets out the specific entitlements that reservists have available to them under employment law. Chief amongst these are:

  • the right not to be dismissed because of the person’s reservist status or the duties that he may be called to perform as a reservist; and
  • the right to be reinstated upon return to the civilian job after a period of mobilisation.

In effect, an employee’s employment contract is ‘suspended’ whilst the employee is performing service as a reservist pending the employee’s application for reinstatement.

Employer’s rights and obligations

The Ministry of Defence will write to employers of reservists giving them notification of the proposed mobilisation of a reservist. The MoD generally aims to give 28 days’ notice of mobilisation.

If the notification of mobilisation of a reservist comes at a difficult time for either the reservist or the employer of the reservist then it is possible for this to be postponed or cancelled. The way in which this is done is through an application for exemption, deferral or revocation. Examples of grounds under which these applications can be made are that:

  • the reservist has primary care responsibilities;
  • the reservist is engaged in full-time education or training;
  • the reservist is self-employed or works in a family-run business that would be seriously affected by his absence;
  • the reservist has entered into a contract of employment but not started work and the employer will not agree to postpone the start date.

When the reservist is mobilised, the employer does not have to pay them for the duration of this period. In addition, the employer will be able to access support from SaBRE (which stands for Supporting Britain’s Reservists and Employers and is a Ministry of Defence marketing and communications campaign) in respect of managing the reservist’s absence from the workplace.

Proposed measures to increase the protection for reservists

In July last year the Defence Secretary, Philip Hammond, published a white paper setting out his plans to support the UK’s armed forces reservists. This sets out a package of incentives to reservists, their families and their employers. These include:

  • Individuals will be entitled to paid annual leave when training as well as when on operations. This will equate to a substantial percentage increase in earnings for most reservists.
  • There will be guaranteed access to employment tribunals in unfair dismissal cases (where the cause of the dismissal is the employee’s reservist status) without the need for a qualifying employment period (currently two years).
  • A £500 per month sum will be awarded to small and medium sized companies whilst their reservist employee is mobilised, on top of other allowances already available.
  • More notice will be provided to employers of reservists being called up to make it easier for them to plan for these absences.

No time frame has yet been set for the implementation of the proposed measures. However, when they come in they are likely to bolster the position of reservists in the workforce whilst also providing further support to employers of reservists. This can only be a good thing given the increasingly important role that reservists play in the UK’s defence strategy.


If you have any queries about the rights of reservists in the workplace, please call a member of the employment team at Blacks.

Euan Lawrence
Employment Rights 
0113 227 9207

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