Everyday approach to working life is significantly different to what it once was and like many other employers the military has had to re-think its approach to the management of service personnel’s working lives in order to keep up with this shift of attitude and compete in the wider, modern employment market.
Why Has The Military Introduced Flexible Working And Flexible Service (FS)?
It is widely recognised that at times that Service Personnel (SP) are expected to work long hours and endure sustained periods away from home but at a time when large numbers of the UK’s working population are seeking a better work-life balance, the military realised that issues surrounding this concept needed to be addressed.
Flexible working is a concept widely adopted by employers who recognise its numerous benefits for both employer and employees and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) hopes that by offering a greater degree of flexibility regarding working hours and terms of service, they will have a happier and more productive workforce that in turn may aid retention in the services.
What Is Flexible Working?
There are several options available to SP and eligibility depends on the nature of their role. Not all options will be available for everyone and operational capability will always come first. SP should speak to their line manager and apply through Joint Personnel Administration (JPA) for flexible working arrangements to be agreed for anything other than an ad-hoc basis.
What Are The Options?
Working From Home (WFH) or another MOD location allows more flexibility with balancing work and home life arrangements and can be done either on an ad-hoc or regular basis.
If WFH is to be done on a regular basis it should be done through your line manager (LM) and through JPA, with a review at least every 12 months. There are security implications that need to be considered if working on an MOD laptop and units may not have enough laptops for everyone applying to WFH.
The MOD has a duty of care to ensure that SP are working safely whether at work or at home so this will also be taken into consideration.
Variable Start/Finish Times
Variable start and finish times can help for example, parents who need some flexibility with regards to school times.
This may mean doing some longer shifts during the week to allow an early finish on a Friday or a later start on Mondays and is particularly useful for people who need to travel considerable distances to their home. It may be used to do more hours in one week and less the following but whatever the arrangement, it should not result in less/more hours worked overall.
The MOD needs to ensure that Health and Safety is not compromised if personnel are working alone in order to compress hours or working longer than can be done safely so limits may be imposed.
What Is Flexible Service (FS)?
FS is a temporary arrangement between three months - three years and personnel can reduce their working hours by 20-40% and/or Restricted Separation (RS) from base location.
Restricted Separation (RS) is defined as: "absence that prevents you returning to your permanent duty station or Residence at Work address overnight or permanent residence (if different) during normal stand down periods, like weekends.” Personnel are awarded one day separation for each 24 hour period.
RS restricts any separation over 35 days per year which protects from long-term deployment.
Part Time (PT) service is the reduction of hours by either 20% or 40% and applies to normal working days and a proportion of normal weekend duties.
If RS is taken in conjunction with 20% or 40% reduction in hours the RS liability also reduces in proportionality, (for less than a year) so RS would be either 21 or 28 days. Unless a variation is agreed, separation should only occur on duty/work days.
What’s The Catch?
Some separation types, including Adventure Training (AT) do not count towards FS.
FS is temporary (between three months and three years) and for no longer than four years in a 12-year rolling period.
Some contracts, including Military Local Service Engagement (MLSE) already have limitations on separation but does not restrict those applying for part-time hours.
Reductions must be applied as full days and they can be used for regular periods/ patterns of working days, but they can also be used for longer or more irregular duty periods.
You must have permission from Chain of Command (CoC) if you take up other work and the other employer will have no legal protection if you are recalled for military service.
All SP are subject to service standards, regulations and service law at all times under FS and the MOD can terminate FS arrangement and recall you to duty in emergency situations.
SP do not have to give reasons to apply for Flexible Working Arrangement applications but it can help your case if you do.
FS arrangements should be reviewed periodically (at least every 12 months) and either party can give notice to terminate arrangements (28 days’ notice if possible).
What About Finances?
X-Factor payment will be reduced in relation to both RS and PT service. PT service will affect pay, leave, supplements, pension and Early Departure Payment (EDP). It will also reduce ill health pension payments but not any Armed Forces Compensation Scheme benefits or Resettlement Grant. All days worked during FS count towards qualifying service.
The Armed Forces’ Occupational Maternity Scheme will apply to those on FS arrangements although SP can choose to suspend or terminate FS arrangements prior to maternity leave.
Other Types Of Leave And Authorised Absence
There are a range of other special leave and authorised absence types that may be used in conjunction with FS arrangements and provide SP some flexibility with regards to career breaks and to facilitate changes in personal circumstances.
Call Forward Of Leave
This allows SP to bring forward up to 10 days of Annual Leave Allowance to the current leave year. This shouldn’t be done more than once in a two-year leave period (unless in exceptional circumstances) and SP must ensure at least 28 days leave is left on the upcoming leave account. Applications are authorised by LMs via JPA.
Transfer Of Leave
This benefit enables SP to transfer some leave allowance to their serving spouse/civil partner. The recipient of leave must be serving in the Regular Army, on a Full Time Reserve Contract (FTRS) or an Additional Duties Contract (ADC).
In normal circumstances up to a third of leave can be transferred but if the donor has been assigned an operational tour of six months or more, up to half of their leave allowance can be shared.
Special Paid Leave (SPL)
Annual Leave must normally be taken before SPL and is an authorised absence not covered by any other type. It can be used for a variety of reasons including: playing sport at a national level, cultural events or to sit civil examinations.
For periods of time below three months SPL can be authorised by a Commanding Officer (CO) if certain conditions (including no impact on SP’s career), but for longer time periods applications are dealt with by manning.
Unpaid Leave is designed for situations that aren’t covered by Compassionate Leave or Paid Leave and is granted for periods of up to 93 days. It can impact on promotion, reckonable service, pay increments, pension and other leave allocations.
COs can grant up to four weeks (although normally two weeks is deemed sufficient). For periods exceeding four weeks the situation will be re-evaluated through Chain of Command (CoC).
An opportunity for SP who have served for 15 years or more to take 50 days leave in one block in lieu of the normal 30 days Annual Leave allocation. It is discretionary (so not all applications will be authorised) and requires advance planning through CoC and Career Managers before submitting a JPA application.
This allows SP to take a ‘specified period of unpaid time out of your Service career for personal or professional development outside of the service, with a seamless return at the end of the break’.
Top image credit: Cpl Si Longworth, Crown Copyright