Smaller businesses are increasingly positive about employing reservists and service leavers, research finds.
The number of firms reluctant to take on a reservist has fallen dramatically over the past three years, according to a study by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), with many more company owners saying they can see the benefits of hiring those with service experience.
The change demonstrates the progress which has been made in improving the package of support available to small businesses hiring reservists.
This FSB study claims to be the first ever to look at the employment of service leavers, in addition to reservists, from a small business perspective.
While the attitude of employers to hiring those with service experience is widely positive, the research also reveals a clear preference among smaller firms for hiring service leavers over reservists with two in three (65 per cent) employers saying they would be keen to hire service leavers.
The number of small firms saying they would actively consider hiring a reservist has increased too, up from 45 per cent in 2013 to 49 per cent in 2016.
FSB policy director Mike Cherry says that employers always want to find the most talented and highly skilled people for the jobs they create, and that reservists and service leavers often bring unique skills and qualities to the job, especially around leadership and management, with businesses recognising this.
He adds, 'The government has made good progress towards encouraging employers to take on reservists. The financial support now on offer to a small employer can help to cover the cost when a member of staff is deployed.
'But there are clearly still challenges to overcome. We would like to see more small businesses supporting our troops. They serve our country and the skills they come back with are diverse and often invaluable.'
Minister for Reserves, Julian Brazier MP says, 'I’d like to thank the growing number of small businesses making the effort to serve their country by supporting our Service personnel.
'It is very encouraging to see more small employers finding the value of the unique skills and expertise that Reservists and Service Leavers can bring to their businesses.'
The FSB report suggests that if the right package of support were put in place, many more small businesses would employ reservists and service leavers.
Two out of three (65 per cent) small firms agree that the skills and knowledge reservists gain during their time in the armed forces are valuable to a business, while three in five (59 per cent) say the same about service leavers.
There is also wide recognition from well over half of small firms that service leavers (60 per cent) and reservists (54 per cent) bring unique experience and insight to businesses.
Small businesses would like to see a number of new measures to help them take on more reservists and service leavers. For reservists, clarity and certainty of when staff are to be mobilised was a top ask, followed by tax incentives to employ members of the armed forces and more certainty in training schedules.
When it comes to taking on service leavers, a specific place where service leavers can promote their availability for employment was popular, as was the concept of civilian equivalent accreditation of skills/qualifications earned during service.
Cherry says, 'Staff wanting to commit to a public service should be commended, but smaller businesses need help to ensure they can facilitate this with minimum impact on their business.
'The MoD should continue to engage with smaller firms to understand and address their concerns. We cannot afford to let reservists and service leavers’ talent and skills go to waste.'
Further reading on military experience
See also: Taking on employees