Nadine Dorries MP: My outrage as reserves are punished for sacrifices
In my surgery last week I was visited by a man who served in the army reserves. Last year he was deployed to provide additional security for the London Olympics because the commercial contracts with G4S could not be fulfilled.
When he returned to work after that deployment, having played a part in keeping our country safe and running one of the most successful games of the modern Olympic movement, my constituent found that his foreign-owned employer had slashed his holiday entitlement by 10 days.
This is outrageous. When reserve personnel are deployed, either to war zones around the world or to support regular forces operations in the UK, they are sacrificing their time and potentially risking their lives so that the rest of us can continue to enjoy peace and security.
My constituent provided security at the Olympic Games. He would have been in the front line of any terror attack. His next deployment could be to Afghanistan. Those of us who have never served in the Armed Forces can never understand the danger such people place themselves in on our behalf. Every week the list of war dead serving abroad grows ever longer.
Employers have a duty to make adequate arrangements to deal with a member of their staff being called up to the reserve forces. Allowances are made so that companies can minimise the disruption that this can cause. But it is absolutely unacceptable for any employer to seek to penalise a member of the reserves and maximise their own profits from the staff member’s service.
This Thursday I have called an Adjournment Debate in Parliament on the issue of terms of employment for reserve service personnel. Legislation on the matter works well for the most part but certain vague wording needs clarifying. I will be seeking confirmation from Defence Ministers that they will not allow the reserves to be used as pawns by employers who fail to recognise and honour the commitment they make.
After all, good business depends on a safe environment to operate in. If it weren’t for British war lives lost we may not be here to debate this issue.
The last government left a multi-billion pound black hole in the finances of the Ministry of Defence. Liam Fox and his successor, Phillip Hammond, have managed to fix this while fending off demands from the Treasury for ever more spending cuts. They have done this in part by recognising the important contribution that is made by reserve forces personnel and relying on it further.
Businesses in the UK should consider it an honour to employ staff members who are willing to serve their country in addition to having a full time job. These people should be valued as assets for their dedication and integrity by any employer lucky enough to have them.
The Reserve Forces (Safeguard of Employment) Act 1985 is notable for striking an adequate balance between the legitimate concerns of employers, the needs of the Ministry and Defence and the reserve personnel themselves. I will be asking for a minor change to be considered so that, in the future, no reserves will be penalised by losing any employment rights for service in defence of this country.