Employers roles and responsibilities


In 2013 the Ministry of Defence (MoD) released the white paper ‘Reserves in the Future Force 2020: Valuable and Valued’. This paper highlights the MoD's commitment to ensuring that the UK's Reserve Forces are correctly structured and supported, what this means for employers and the plans to raise the number of reservists in England by 2020. Find out more about the white paper by visiting the MoD website

Your responsibilities

As an employer of a reservist, you have certain legal responsibilities to ensure that your reservist employees are supported throughout their military career. As set out in the Reserve Forces (Safeguarding of Employment) Act 1985, the employer is obliged to provide employment for the reservist when they return from mobilisation. They should have the same or an equivalent role for a certain period, based on their continuous service in your organisation before mobilisation.

For more information on reservists and your responsibilities, read our key facts on employing reservists in the NHS document. We have also created a model policy that you can use as a template in your organisation. You can also visit the Defence Relationship Management website for general advice and information.

Benefits to employers

Reservists make an invaluable contribution to the NHS, as they undertake a variety of clinical and leadership training that they may not be able to access outside of military training. It is estimated that in their first year of service, a reservist will have completed around £8000 worth of training. Many reservists find that this training and mobilisation allows them to develop excellent leadership, communication and teamwork skills, and for medical staff, a chance to enhance their clinical skillset. 

Find out how a reservists training and experiences can benefit your organisation in our series of podcasts. You can also read our blogs to find out how links with local Navy, Army or RAF units can provide your non-military staff with unique team building experiences. 

Tracy Taylor, chief executive of Birmingham Community Healthcare NHS Trust said:
‘As a trust we employ a number of ex-service personnel, many of whom are in management and leadership positions. We recognise and appreciate the skills and qualities that are developed through military training and actively encourage our staff to consider reservist employment.

Our reservist employees receive additional qualifications, exceptional training and unique experiences. In return, we receive a very dedicated, well trained and enthusiastic member of staff who is keen to foster team work and take on leadership responsibilities’.

Financial support

The MoD offers financial support to employers of reservists that have been mobilised. Employers can be fully or partially reimbursed for the costs incurred in recruiting and training replacement staff (including agency and advertising costs), re-training a reservist returning from mobilisation and replacing specialist clothing. The MoD will also pay for their pension contributions while they are away from work.

You can claim for these costs before the reservist is mobilised and will receive payment once they have started their service. You must claim before four weeks after their last day of service or eight weeks if the cost is for training following their return. Please see the Defence Relationship Management website for more information on the financial support your organisation can receive.

Public commitment

Your organisation can celebrate its support for the Armed Forces through the Ministry of Defence Employer Recognition Scheme and by signing the Armed Forces Covenant.

Organisations can gain an Employer Recognition Scheme bronze, silver or gold award, which is dependent on their level of commitment to both their reservists and the wider Armed Forces community. Holding one of these awards offers you the opportunity to demonstrate your reservist support to staff, patients and potential employees. You can also get ideas and inspiration from other organisations that have received awards for their excellent commitment to their reservist employees.

The Armed Forces Covenant offers employers the opportunity to demonstrate their public commitment to the Armed Forces community by agreeing to a set of core principles. These include:
  • no member of the Armed Forces community should face disadvantage in the provision of public and commercial services compared to any other citizen
  • in some circumstances special treatment may be appropriate, especially for the injured or bereaved.

Each organisation is also encouraged to offer support in a way most appropriate to their situation and capacity, with the pledge document, including a menu of options, for them to sign up to. This menu covers employment support for veterans, reservists, service spouses and partners, as well as support for cadet units, Armed Forces Day, and discounts for the Armed Forces community. 

NHS Employers can help your organisation to develop its engagement with your reservist employees and also nominate you for the awards. More information can be found on our dedicated Employer Recognition scheme web pages.

NHS Reserve Forces footprint map

Our NHS Reserve Forces footprint map shows useful information and contact details that will be useful to employers who want to support the reservists in their workforce. The map is aimed at NHS organisations in England and includes information on your reservist employer status, whether you have an Employer Recognition Scheme award or if you have signed the Armed Forces Covenant. You can also find details of your regional employer engagement director from the Local Defence Relationship Management on the map. 

Top tips for employers

  • Know your reservists. Use the Electronic Staff Record (ESR) to record 'member of the Reserved Armed Forces' as a supplementary role on an individual's record. Guidance on how to do this can be found on the ESR knowledge base (login required).
  • Support your reservists so they can attend training. Reservists can develop many transferable skills that your organisation could benefit from. 
  • Use their skills. Talk to your reservists to find out which skills could benefit their NHS role, team and the organisation. 
  • Know your legal responsibilities, such as reinstating your reservist following mobilisation. 
  • Find out about financial assistance and how to claim. If you understand this before your employee is mobilised, it will make the process easier for you.

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