Firms told to prepare for staff being called to fight

Companies should be prepared to manage without skilled employees if the war
against terrorism continues to escalate, the Engineering Employers Federation
has advised.

The warning came as military reservists specialising in photo-reconnaissance
and languages were called up by the MoD to help in the attack on Afghanistan.

Gordon Scott, director of the EEF Sheffield Association, urged companies to
look closely at their call-up commitments if they have members of staff who are
Territorial Army members or ex-military personnel on the reserve list.

He said, "Businesses which are aware that they may stand to lose some
of their employees, especially in areas such as communications and computers,
may well have contingency plans in force.

"If not, they should draw up such plans, as the international tension
shows no signs of easing in the short to medium term.

"In some cases, companies may be totally unaware of their obligations –
not because the employee was trying to play down his or her military links, but
because they had simply never thought of telling their employer."

The call-out order just issued by the MoD, under the Reserve Forces Act of
1996, entitles volunteers to payments helping to bridge the gap between service
pay and their normal salaries.

It also entitles employers to payments helping them to find temporary
replacements for those called up and re-training when they return.

Members of the TA’s military intelligence battalion are among the first to
be called up and include barristers, solicitors and academics.

Scott added, "This could be a longer and ultimately bigger campaign
than the one in the Balkans, so companies should look closely at their call-up
or reserve commitments of key personnel."

EEF members will be able to talk with representatives of the armed forces at
special meetings over the next few weeks.

By Ben Willmott

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