SMBs need more help to hire reservists, govt told

Friday 18 January 2013

Business

Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) need more state support if they are to hire reservists from the Army, Navy and Air Force, it has been claimed.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) reports that almost one in three (30 per cent) of SMBs feel they are lacking support in this area - impacting on their recruitment decisions.

It believes better communication from government is key for SMBs to employ a reservist – just 11 per cent of companies said they knew about the Ministry of Defence's Employer Awareness Events.

And 86 per cent said that any government support to businesses employing reservists should focus on the specific needs of small and micro firms, rather than big business.

Respondents said a financial incentive (39 per cent), help in finding replacement staff (30 per cent) and flexibility in the training schedule (21 per cent) would encourage more businesses to employ a reservist in the future.

And almost half (48 per cent) said they would ideally require two to three months' notice if one of their employees was to be mobilised.

John Walker, national chairman of the FSB, said that at the end of 2012, the government announced it would work with employers of reservists and give them more notice before staff are deployed.

"These results suggest the support cannot come soon enough," he noted.

"We have long said that the smallest firms may find it more difficult to be supportive of employing a reservist, especially as each employee makes such a large proportion of a workforce."

Better communication, information and support that is tailored to the needs of small firms are a must if they are to consider taking one on, he added.

"There is an appetite among some small businesses to hire a reservist in the future, but there are clear areas the government must address. Putting the needs of the smallest firms at the heart of reforms would be a good start," Mr Walker claimed.

"While small firms are flexible by the nature of their size, they feel that more help to recruit a replacement would be beneficial."

The Ministry of Defence must look to engage with the sector to help provide the assistance needed, he added.

Posted by Dan Smith