Labour Seeks to Ban Discrimination Against Reservists

The U.K. opposition Labour party is considering legislation to stop employers discriminating against military reservists because of unpredictable working patterns, its defense spokesman, Jim Murphy, will say today.

Murphy will announce that Labour wants to encourage businesses to employ reservists, saying companies should be given as much warning as possible about their deployment and training, including the possible staggering of large-scale troop movements in future wars, according to his office. In return, part-time soldiers would have to be open about their membership of the forces when applying for a job.

Defense budget cuts mean the U.K. is scaling back its regular military and relying on doubling its number of reservists to 30,000 by 2020. Research by the Federation of Small Businesses found 36 percent of respondents saying nothing would encourage them to employ a member of the backup forces. The federation received 1,836 responses to an online poll between December 2012 and January 2013.

“It is our strong belief that the government should consult with employers specifically on new legislation to prevent against the discrimination in hiring reservists, something which would need to be coupled with an obligation of transparency from reservists to declare their status,” Murphy will say in a speech in London. “If the government do not do this, Labour will take action.”

One way to do this would be for Labour to use a so-called private members’ bill to introduce the necessary legislation in Parliament.

Figures in a written answer to Parliament on March 18 showed 2,050 people signed up to join the part-time Territorial Army in the last nine months of the 2012-13 fiscal year, below the government’s target of 6,424 for the 12 months.

Murphy will say that the Ministry of Defence should establish a committee to work with major employers and lobby groups to discuss policies affecting reservists.

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