The Ministry of Defence (MoD) is calling up 3,000 reservists to help in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic (April 2020). How does mobilisation work and what employment protections are in place? Below some more information relating to employment of reservist.
Do you employ reservist (Volunteer Reserve Forces)?
Volunteer military reservists, for the Army, Navy or Royal Air Force, are called up to supplement the regular forces when required, if they are mobilised they will carry out the same roles as a member of the regular force.
Reservists normally train one evening a week with their units, and can also attend training weekends throughout the year, plus they consolidate their training by attending a two-week annual camp.
By law employers do not have to give extra leave with pay for training but many choose to do so.
When a reservist receives the call-out notice, they should inform their employer immediately. The employer will receive an information pack giving them the possible dates and duration of mobilisation as well as their statutory rights. The MOD aim to give at least 28 days notice of mobilisation. In most cases the reservists are selected according to their individual skills so the MOD can select the most appropriate people to call up.
While away on active service the reservist will be paid by the MOD, therefore employers don't have to pay an employee while they're away.
Under certain exceptional conditions both the reservist and employer can apply for an exemption or deferral of mobilisation.
Can employers refuse to allow the reservist to mobilise?
An employer can, if they feel the mobilisation will cause serious harm to the business (including loss of sales, inability to provide a service), apply for deferral, revocation or an exemption. The employer would have to do so within seven days of the date the call-up notice is served.
An employer who terminates the employment of a reservist solely or mainly on the grounds that they may be mobilised in future is guilty of a criminal offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine. Dismissal on these grounds may well be unfair. There is no qualifying period for an unfair dismissal claim where the reason (or principal reason) for the dismissal is membership with the reserved forces.
What happens if a reservist fails to comply with a call-up notice?
A reservist who fails to comply with a call-up notice may be guilty of desertion or being absent without leave. An individual (including an employer) who encourages a reservist to desert or be absent without leave may also commit an offence.
Can an employer claim any financial assistance?
The employer can claim a number of "awards" in relation to an absent reservist:
There are time limits for making these claims.
Keeping in touch
It would be good practice for both employees and employers to keep in touch while the employee is away, the reservists will have access to email. Employers can update staff on changes in the workplace, news and general updates on what's happening within the organisation.
A reservist has a period of winding down in a controlled environment for up to four days, and they will go to a demobilisation centre in the UK for any necessary post -operative procedures.
Once formally demobilised they will be free to start their post-operative leave which could be in the region of 30 days, during this period they will still be paid by the MOD.
Returning to work
When a reservist has been demobilised they will make an application to return to work, the employer has a duty to reinstate them to their normal job. However, if this is not possible, they must offer them a suitable alternative role. Often reservists returning to work will need time to re-train or just familiarise themselves with procedures at work. An employer must re-employ the employee as soon as they are reasonably able to do so from the date the employee is ready to return to work.
Time spent away from work doesn't count towards continuous service but continuity of employment isn't broken where the reservist is re-engaged within 6 months of the end of their active service.
There is no right to accrue annual leave while away on military service, reservists when they demobilise will get a period of post-operational leave and as noted above will be continue to be paid by the MOD during this time.
Armed Forces Day 25th June 2022