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I n t h e W o r k p l a c e

Preferential Treatment What’s that and Can I Have Some?

Every now and again in a Serviceperson’s life, a personal crisis arises that can make it well nigh impossible for the individual to fulfil his/her military obligations as well as deal with the crisis. The conflict of interests between being seen to do your duty whilst simultaneously trying to support your family can place massive strain on the individual and, all too often, the Serviceperson assumes they just have to get on with it. Dawn McCafferty reports on Preferential Treatment as an option.

Hitting a crisis

It might be the diagnosis of a life-threatening illness in a loved one; or the emergence of serious childcare challenges for a lone parent; or the need for stability whilst a family member undergoes medical treatment for infertility; or to support an application for adoption. The range of crises is as broad as it is long and every case is unique and personal to the family concerned.

Many fail to ask for help until the crisis has escalated to a very serious level, either because they don’t know help is available, they are too proud to ask, or they fear there will be massive consequences for their career. This delay can subsequently put pressure on ‘the system’ to act quickly, thereby inadvertently impacting on others who have to step up and cover the duties of those temporarily unable to do so.

Providing protection For all Service personnel and their families there is help at hand. If the need is genuine, and supported by evidence, the RAF has the ability to provide individuals with temporary protection from the exigencies of the Service. The policy is known as Preferential Treatment (PT) and the rules are laid down in AP 3392 Volume 2, Leaflet 1555.

Anyone who thinks that a personal crisis is looming that may impact on their ability to meet the full range of their Service commitments is advised to make early contact with their line manager and the Personnel staffs at unit level, who can assist in the compilation of a case or provide alternative support if appropriate.

If the unit staffs agree that PT appears justified, they will submit a case, supported by evidence from agencies such as GPs, SSAFA, schools, local authorities, etc, to the specialist staffs at Air Command. In writing the case, the staffs will be looking to demonstrate Serious Illness or Severe Distress in the individual’s immediate family.

26 Winter 2009

The case is then considered by the RAF’s Compassionate Appeals Tribunal (CAT) and this panel of officers will determine if the case merits support and the type of PT to be provided. It may be a posting to a certain area of the country to support a sick relative. It may be the cancellation or postponement of a posting or detachment. Depending on the circumstances, PT is usually offered for an initial period of 6-12 months.

Extended assistance Extensions from 12 to 18 months and, exceptionally, up to 3 years, can be considered on a case-by-case basis and evidence will be required to justify each extension. Cases that would require more than 18 months of PT may lead to consideration of a compassionate discharge from the Service as this may be the only way that the individual can achieve the stability and protection he/she requires.

Clearly, PT is only granted in cases where the need is justified because the granting of PT for one individual is likely to disadvantage another. Moreover, having a proportion of the RAF on PT at any one time, limits the Service’s ability to meet its operational commitments. However, as a caring employer, it is incumbent upon the RAF to recognise that, every now and again, individual needs may require prioritisation over Service needs in order to protect personnel and their families from suffering unnecessary personal stress. Meeting a short-term need through the provision of PT can aid retention in the longer term, when the individual returns to full employability worldwide.

Career implications As for the impact on an individual’s career, the fact that someone has applied for and been granted PT will not prevent career advancement. However, if the individual is in receipt of PT and is selected by a Promotion Selection Board, an additional Board will then consider the circumstances

of the case. They will determine whether promotion, which often includes a posting or the requirement to attend a training course, is achievable without undermining the PT.

Clearly, there may be circumstances when the individual has to face a tough choice – jeopardise the PT or turn down promotion or a posting in order to support a family member. Only the individual and the family concerned can make such a decision and only they will know what is right for them at the time. Sometimes, a period of PT might actually preserve a career that would otherwise have ended prematurely.

If you need it, consider it So the message is: Help is available if you need it but you need to act early, seek advice from the specialists, provide the evidence required to support your application, and consider the potential impact before deciding whether PT is an option for you and your family.

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