Research highlights Whole Force goals could be de-stabilised if reservists’ “invisible” support withdrawn.

“Those circles would not join,” says Army Reservist Samuel, a participant in the study carried out by Future Reserves Research Programme (FRRP), a joint project between the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC),the British Army and the Ministry of Defence.

As the UK Armed Forces move increasingly towards a ‘whole force’ structure that integrates Full-time personnel and the Reserve Forces, the research identifies issues facing the Armed Forces as they introduced these changes.

The key findings and recommendations were presented by members of the research team at an event held in London on 27 June 2018 – Reserves Day. The event was chaired by Lieutenant General (Retd) Robin Brims, Chair of Future Reserves 2020 External Scrutiny Group, Chairman of the Council of Reserve Forces’ and Cadets’ Associations, and member of the FRRP Advisory Group.

The three-year study aimed to identify and understand the range of issues affecting reservist personnel in relation to different parts of their lives – family life, civilian jobs and military life.

Other publications include an article in the International Feminist Journal of Politics by Dr Victoria Basham and Dr Sergio Catignani which considers how the Army’s reliance on women’s invisible labour facilitates war preparedness and has the capacity to destabilize it.

There is a danger to the sustainability of the Reserves when Reservist participation is contingent on labour which can be withdrawn at any time.

Although celebratory recognition of this unpaid work is evident in, for example, family events and family days where Reservists’ families are invited to participate in fun activities hosted by units, this is time-limited and incidental. 

Future Reserves Research programme content photo

The compartmentalisation Reservists do to keep their military and domestic lives quite separate, had knock-on effects in the FRRP research, with many Reservists even reluctant to enrol their spouses and wider families to participate in research interviews. As one research participant epitomised, “those circles would not join.”

Nonetheless the research managed to evidence that Reservists are cautious about sharing family or civilian work details with the military, and vice versa, resulting in a delicate balance of time and energy invested between the military, Reservists, their families, colleagues, and employers.

The research explores the impact this can have on Reserve Service, as well as makes recommendations for policy-makers. Regrettably the Best practice in employer support for Reservists: The views of Reservist employees is light on insights that could step-change the perceived value that Reservist experience brings to a civilian workforce. 

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The Reserve Forces – a hidden population?


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