The Telegraph reports that “Reservists could be given legal rights similar to those offered to pregnant women in an attempt to stop workplace discrimination.”
Reservists are currently protected under The Reserve Forces (Safeguard of Employment) Act 1985 which provides employment protection (e.g. right not to be unfairly dismissed) and reinstatement rights.
If a reservist employee is mobilised the Ministry of Defence (MoD) aims to give at least 28 days notice to an employer.
Upon their return, employers have an obligation to reinstate a reservist employee in the same role and on equally favourable terms. Employers have the right to appeal against mobilisation if they can show it would cause serious harm to their business.
If employers are warned that an employee is a reservist, this enables them to organise suitable cover for when they are mobilised.
At present, reservists are encouraged to talk to their employers about their position but employers are informed through the MoD “Employer Notification” system in any event.
With regard to asking potential employees in an interview whether they are reservists and/or whether they are planning to become one, it is unclear how often this occurs in practice.
If a woman was asked whether she was planning on having a baby, this would be a form of sex discrimination under the Equality Act.
However, being a reservist is not a protected characteristic under the Equality Act and thus employers would be in their rights to ask this question.
Richard Chung, Senior Support Analyst at Ralli and former TA member comments:
“The 28 days notice policy is important because if you are a reservist with a very niche set of skills, you could be deployed with almost no notice at all.
Events such as the Olympics and tours of duty abroad are planned many months in advance thus giving employers plenty of notice. However, occurrences of say, natural disasters will provide almost no warning.
For example, with the flooding in Cumbria a couple of years ago a fair few TA soldiers were mobilised with only a handful of days notice.
Perhaps there is scope for debate as to making legislation on a minimum notice period that the MoD must give to employers in the event of call up?”