Soldiers’ working hours not healthy or sustainable, survey says

Nearly two-thirds of respondents in Army Families Federation survey say they are working more than 10 hours a day

British soldiers are working hours that are not healthy or sustainable, according to a survey by the Army Families Federation (AFF).

Some 71% of those surveyed said their hours had increased considerably in the past two years, and 64% were working more than 10 hours a day.

The AFF said 10 years of intensive operations in Iraq and Afghanistan may have normalised long hours, and it called for a review of the army’s working culture.

In a foreword to the report, Gail Kinman, professor of occupational health psychology at the University of Bedfordshire, said: “Long working hours, attendance at compulsory social events and the need to work at home will undoubtedly have a negative impact on family life and will also reduce opportunities for soldiers to recover fully from the psychological and physical demands of their work.”

She added: “It is important to acknowledge that the EU working time directive stipulates a maximum of 48 hours per week. While of course, the armed forces will be exempt from this directive, it does indicate that current working hours are not healthy or sustainable in the long term.”

Shadow armed forces minister, Kevan Jones, said: “From this report it is clear that our armed forces and their families simply do not believe that the government is doing enough to help establish a better work-life balance for military personnel.

“The defence secretary must act urgently to prevent this worrying loss of morale among our armed forces and their families.”

The online survey, which had 2,587 responses, highlighted the difficulties faced by soldiers and their families as a result of the long and irregular hours.

The AFF report said: “It is possible that 10 years of campaigning has normalised extremely long working days and a sense that everything is delivered as an essential within ‘immediate’ timeframes.

“Although this is a matter for command, the impact is very tangible for the families and in that sense becomes an AFF issue.”

The AFF recommended that the Mental Health Foundation should be invited to survey soldiers and their families to identify the effects of long hours.

“AFF is particularly concerned that soldiers and families already stressed from experiences of war face no extended ‘recuperation’ when back at home,” the report said.

“This could create obstacles to any recovery process and may exacerbate existing conditions.”

The report highlighted potential problems with the government’s move to a new employment model for army recruits, aimed at making a career in the military an attractive choice.

The AFF report found that 10% of army spouses had given up work because 0f the increase in their partner’s hours.

It recommended subsidised childcare and stressed the need for service accommodation, rather than relying on increased home ownership among army families.

“When, or indeed if, the army is able to revise the terms and conditions of service to ensure that the working day is routine, predictable and less than 10 hour then it can look to plan for a significant increase in …read more    

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