HC Deb 16 March 2000 vol 346 cc282-3W
Mr. Menzies Campbell

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what measures are being taken to protect reservists in the armed forces from dismissal by their civilian employers; and if he will make a statement. [114916]

Mr. Spellar

Reservists are afforded protection under the terms of the Reserve Forces (Safeguard of Employment) Act 1985, which is sponsored by the Department of Trade and Industry. This Act makes dismissal between notification of call-out and actual mobilisation a criminal offence. After demobilisation, the Act requires the employer to reinstate the reservist on application, or to offer him or her the most favourable alternative work available. The Act provides for a Reinstatement Committee to consider applications for reinstatement which are rejected by employers, and to make orders for reinstatement or the payment of compensation, or both. Over 5,000 reservists have been called out for service since NATO operations commenced in the former Yugoslavia. We are aware of only one application to a Reinstatement Committee in that time. It is our policy to seek the employer's agreement before any reservist is mobilised.

The National Employers' Liaison Committee (NELC) works hard to win and retain the support of employers for the Reserve Forces. NELC can also act in an advisory capacity where difficulties related to Reserve liability arise in the employer/employee relationship. Over 6,000 companies, employing around 70 per cent. of the nation's workforce, have now affirmed their support. These companies have recognised that they get a good deal from employing reservists. Reserve service teaches skills that can be used in the civilian workplace, such as teamwork, leadership, and the ability to take sound decisions quickly.

The Reserve Forces Act 1996 and subsequent legislation introduced new safeguards for employers. The Act enables employers to apply for their employees to be exempted from call-out or for that call-out to be deferred. The Reserve Forces (Call-out and Recall) (Financial Assistance) Regulations 1997 (SI 1997/309), enable employers to claim financial assistance to cover the costs associated with the loss of a member of staff who is mobilised for reserve service, and for any necessary retraining for that individual on his or her return to the workplace.