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SpousesinBusiness and Employment | 31 family life”2 and 51% stating “their spouse/partner’s career”3 as


the main influences on their intention to leave, it is unsurprising that spouse/partner employment is the focus of MOD attention. Under the banner of the Armed Forces Covenant numerous initiatives have been developed and indeed funded, so for spouse/ partner employment the answer to “Can the Covenant help?”, as always, is Yes, No and Maybe.


Yes


Finding the right job involves acomplicated mix of the right job opportunities being available, possessing the right knowledge and experience, and having the right skills to get through the recruitment process (such as writing good CVs or job applications and having good interview skills). The covenant seeks to mitigate the disadvantages that arise from service life by tackling several of these issues.


To date over 2000 companies have signed covenants pledging to support the armed forces community.The covenant has helped to widen the job opportunities available to service families by company pledges to specifically promote jobs to local armed forces communities by methods such as advertising on units, and in publications and websites targeted at service families.


Other covenant-funded support has focused on bolstering employability skills such as CV writing, interview skills and confidence building. Spouses/partners have been encouraged to consider more flexible and transferable employment models which fit better with service life, by programmes such as Unsung Heroes, which focuses on self-employment, business start-up and business development skills; all of which is touched upon in this section of the magazine.


Once in employment the challenge for service spouses/partners is managing the impact of mobility and deployment on continuing employment. Some companies such as Tesco and Vodafone attempt to mitigate this by pledging to give extra consideration to holiday requests from spouses before, during or after their partner’s deployment and to sympathetically consider requests for transfers to another location on posting. It’s agood idea to see if your chosen employer has signed the covenant and specifically what they have signed up to do in terms of support offered.


No


Whilst the covenant support spouses/partners into employment, it cannot guarantee that they always get the job of their choice and does not confer any special legal rights or protection. Anecdotally some spouses/partners report being discriminated against on the basis of being military spouses but they have no additional rights beyond the rights granted from equality and anti-discrimination legislation based on gender,race, disability and sexuality which


2


Table B12.14 How do the following factors impact on your intention to stay or leave the RAF? Impact of service on family life AFCAS 2017 https://www.gov. uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/636475/ AFCAS_2017_ANNEX_B_Reference_Tables_v2_-_O.pdf


3Table B12.34 How do the following factors impact on your intention to stay


or leave the RAF? Spouse/partner’s career AFCAS 2017 https://www.gov.uk/ government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/636475/ AFCAS_2017_ANNEX_B_Reference_Tables_v2_-_O.pdf


4https://www.gov.uk/flexible-working 5


https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/jobcentre-plus-services- for-the-armed-forces-and-their-families/armed-forces-enhanced- access-to-jobcentre-plus-services-and-armed-forces-champions


apply to all.


Similarly the covenant does not override the legal terms and conditions of employment contracts. There is no duty on employers to grant requests for additional leave to support the partner’s deployment or requests for transfers to another location unless it is written into the employee’s contract, which rarely is the case. Most HR policies don’t mention the armed forces covenant and those that do rarely confer obligations on employers beyond the requirement to give requests due consideration.


Maybe


However,there is much to be positive about. Under the covenant in business banner the MOD has been promoting the additional qualities that are possessed by many spouses/partners such as greater resilience, organisational skills and commitment. Many companies have responded positively,such as Amazon, Barclays, Countrywide and Vodafone, and have contacted the RAF Families Federation to explore how they can reach out to spouses/partners more effectively.Whilst not specifically focused on spouse/ partner employment, over £20 million from the Covenant has been invested into childcare facilities on MOD sites which should increase available childcare to service families and consequently support increased employment.


Even when the covenant cannot help explicitly,spouses/partners may be able to draw on it. By law any employee who has been employed for more than 26 weeks has the legal right to request flexible working which must be given due consideration by their employer4


.For spouses/partners working for companies who have


signed acovenant there is always scope to make reference to the companies’ general commitment to support the armed forces in their request if it is linked to the pressures arising from service life.


Despite all these initiatives there are still times when spouses/ partners are forced to give up work due to mobility.However, in these circumstances the covenant can still offer support under commitments from the Department for Work and Pensions to ensure that in many cases spouses/partners are not penalised for voluntarily leaving employment and may have early access to additional support from Job Centre Plus to find new employment5


Like many issues that fall under the covenant there is not one easy answer to all the issues which will work for everyone. However,spouse/partner employment continues to be an areas in which interest and support under the covenant is growing. For more information about the covenant please contact the RAF FF Covenant Team at raf-ff.org.uk/covenant.asp


The Armed Forces Covenant armedforcescovenant.gov.uk/support-and-advice/families/


armedforcescovenant.gov.uk/get-involved/who-has-signed- the-covenant/


.


www.raf-ff.org.uk |Summer 2018 | ENVOY


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