The Armed Forces Covenant is a promise from the nation to those who serve or who have served, and their families, which says we will do all we can to ensure they are treated fairly and not disadvantaged in their day-to-day lives.
Businesses and charitable organisations who wish to demonstrate their support for the Armed Forces community can sign the Covenant. Organisations can make a range of written and publicised promises to set out their support to members of the Armed Forces community who work in their business or access their products and services.
The level of support will depend on the size and nature of the organisation, but typically includes policies that: encourage reserve service; support employment of veterans and service spouses/partners; give the Armed Forces community a fair deal on commercial products and services.
More than 800 businesses and charities have signed an Armed Forces Covenant, and that number continues to grow.
All Armed Forces Covenants are to be signed by a person in authority who can ensure that commitments are implemented and maintained. Depending on the size and structure of your organisation, this could mean the Chief Executive, Chair or HR Director of a large multinational; the Chief Executive or Chair of a medium-sized company; or the owner or manager of a small business.
How can the MOD and the Armed Forces community support businesses?
The Armed Forces community can contribute real value to a business, both as employees, who bring a wealth of skills and experience, and as customers. The Armed Forces Covenant encourages the Armed Forces community to do their bit to nurture this two-way relationship. It is important that Defence seeks to foster an open and honest relationship with employers and that we ensure the needs of companies are considered alongside those of Defence and the Armed Forces community.
Members of the Armed Forces community are urged to declare themselves as such and build an open relationship with their employer. To play its part, the MOD will continue to support business needs, including by providing training and support to those leaving the Armed Forces as they transition to employment in civilian life.
What should your Armed Forces Covenant pledge include?
The starting point for any organisation is deciding what measures your business can take forward, perhaps in consultation with employees or customers from the Armed Forces community, and setting these out in an Armed Forces Covenant pledge. A template can be downloaded from the Armed Forces Covenant webpage.
Signatories are encouraged to provide as much detail in their pledges as they feel they are able. For example, under ‘promoting the fact that we are an armed forces-friendly organisation’ you could include ‘by publicising our Armed Forces Covenant on our website and displaying the Armed Forces Covenant logo’. What the Armed Forces Covenant looks like varies from organisation to organisation.
Once signed, you may want to consider some practical steps you could take to fulfil your pledge. You will no doubt have ideas for initiatives of your own, but the following notes are intended to provide ideas of suggested best practice:
- Publicise your Armed Forces Covenant commitments through your website or by displaying a poster in your business
- Display the Armed Forces Covenant logo to show that members of the Armed Forces community are welcome customers
- Larger businesses may wish to support the creation of Armed Forces Community Groups and networks within their organisation
- You may wish to celebrate Armed Forces Day as a business
How can we support the employment of veterans?
You may wish to:
- Offer guaranteed interviews to veterans, young and old, if they meet the selection criteria laid out in a job advert
- Support the employment, where appropriate, of wounded, injured or sick veterans
- Recognise military skills and qualifications when interviewing for new positions
- Hold briefing days specifically for those leaving the Armed Forces, as a way to raise awareness of the opportunities for employment in your business
How can we support the employment of service spouses and partners?
You may wish to:
- Focus recruiting effort on the Armed Forces community, such as advertising through ‘service-friendly’ recruitment agencies and service charities
- Offer guaranteed interviews to spouses/partners if they meet the selection criteria laid out in a job advert
- If you have branches in multiple geographic areas, committing to attempt to find alternative employment within the business in another location, if they need to move to accompany their partner
How can we endeavour to offer a degree of flexibility in granting leave for service spouses and partners before, during and after a partner’s deployment?
You may wish to:
- Look sympathetically on requests for holidays before, during or after a partner’s overseas deployment, when the service person has leave to spend time with their family
- Consider whether special paid leave is appropriate for employees who are bereaved or whose loved ones are injured
How can we seek to support our employees who choose to be members of the reserve forces?
You may wish to:
- Accommodate your reservists’ training commitments wherever possible. This is normally a number of weekends and a two-week training camp each year. You may simply choose to allow them to take normal leave for this two week camp - or perhaps consider offering additional unpaid or, where practicable, even paid leave
- Accommodate mobilisation of your reservists if they are required to deploy. This would generally be for a six month deployed period as well as pre-deployment training and post-deployment recuperation, although some may be shorter (such as the 2012 Olympics, which was for one month). Forces are structured to sustain one deployment every five years - if required - apart from the Royal Auxiliary Air Force which might entail one every three years
- Encourage any reservists in your business to participate in Reserves Day
- Work with Defence Relationship Management and/or your regional Employer Engagement Director to find out more about how employing a reservist can be mutually beneficial
In return, MOD expect that reservists declare themselves as such and Defence will seek to build an open relationship with employers, including giving good notice of when a reservist is needed for training or operations, in order to help employers plan ahead. MOD will aim to manage this to meet the reasonable requirements of the employer, the reservist and Defence.
Defence will also seek to accredit reserve training, skills and experience with civilian qualifications and to provide advice to employers as required. You can find further information on rights and responsibilities for reservists and employers, including financial assistance, on GOV.UK
The Defence Employer Recognition Scheme
The Employer Recognition Scheme (ERS) publically recognises employers’ efforts to support Defence personnel issues, such as employing reservists and veterans, while encouraging others to do the same.