Employers must put forward some forward planning to cover key skills if
employees who are reservists receive the call to arms in Iraq
If Tony Blair and George Bush launch military action against Iraq,
businesses could be among the first casualties.
Prudent employers up and down the country should be checking the potential impacts
of military activity on their organisations. Some employers will face the call
up of hundreds of reservists and they need to understand their rights and
The armed services rely on significant numbers of former service people who
still have a ‘reserve liability’, together with 46,000 Territorial Army
An MOD notice requiring attendance will be used to call up members of the
reserve forces, and a copy of the letter will be sent to affected employers.
Failure to comply with the order will be a criminal offence. Call up may
result from potential warlike operations or when the MoD plans to use the UK’s
armed forces outside the country for the protection of life, property or the
alleviation of distress.
The Government may require certain specialist skills as a result of mounting
pressures on the armed forces from military action abroad and threats of
industrial action at home.
Many employers will be unaware of exactly which members of staff are on the
reserve lists and who may be called up. This will depend on the needs of the
forces and the employee’s military skills and expertise. It is less likely that
a former infantryman will be called up for example, than a signals operator, a
language specialist or medical officer.
Unfortunately these people skills translate well into the world of work –
skills which are difficult to replace at short notice.
Employers should make a list of those who may be called up and undertake a
risk assessment of the potential impact of the absence of those most likely to
Employees will be sent a call up notice either in person or by post. There
are grounds upon which individuals may object but only one of these relates
directly to employment or to circumstances where an offer of employment has
been made but which has not yet started.
Employers must object by applying to an adjudication officer within seven
days of receipt of the call up notice (and late applications may, on occasion,
be accepted). The grounds of objection include impairment of the ability to
produce goods or services and financial harm.
Naturally, the more cogent the case, the easier it will be to reverse the
call-up and it may be to engineer a deferral if a total exemption is
impossible. It will also help to have a good understanding of the statutory
grounds for the case when preparing the request and to provide supporting
On the completion of military service, the employer must allow the employee
to return to their previous occupation or, if that is impracticable, into the
best occupation available. If the job differs on return it is important that
the employer follows a detailed procedure. Further, the employer should be
aware that dismissal during the period of military leave is an offence.
This is an ideal opportunity to test succession planning and organisational
flexibility. Who will step in if one of your employees is called up? Are there
contingencies to cover the loss of a number of staff members? Will this require
communication with customers requesting their understanding?
Such plans are, in any event, a useful tool in the management of potentially
damaging business issues and can act as a catalyst for wider contingency
Since many businesses benefit from the skills of staff gained through military
training, perhaps these are the people to entrust with the development of a
detailed plan of action for such emergencies.
By Richard Smith, Corporate and training manager at Croner Consulting