The British public has a great deal of respect for the Military. The Armed Forces Covenant helps to outline what this means for Service personnel once they’ve resettled.
Sometimes it can seem like Service personnel are a different breed from other people and although that’s a necessary and good thing whilst you’re Serving, it can be problematic when you’re aiming to resettle. The Armed Forces Covenant is an attempt to celebrate (or salute) what the Forces give to the country. It sets out to describe the relationship between the Nation, the Government and the Armed Forces based on recognising that the entire country has a moral obligation towards members of the Armed Forces and their families, and it establishes how they should expect to be treated.
The Armed Forces Covenant was published in May 2011 along with a document called ‘Today and Tomorrow’ which lists the nearly 100 real, tangible commitments the Government has made to the Armed Forces community.
Although the Armed Forces Covenant itself is not a legal document, its key principles have been enshrined in law in the Armed Forces Act 2011. The legislation obliges the Defence Secretary to report annually on progress made by the Government in honouring the Covenant.
Depth of Feeling
It’s more than a document however, and outlines the depth to which the country intends to support its Service personnel (during Service and afterwards). At first glance you might think that the “100 commitments” idea looks a little bit like the benefits or discounts that you might get with a particular club membership or bank account but in actual fact, it’s much more than that.
Everybody in the UK deserves and has a legal right to equal opportunities but it can sometimes be the case that as a result of their Service, members of the Armed Forces find that equality difficult to access. With this in mind, the Armed Forces Covenant is able to outline where reasonable exceptions to ordinary rules or circumstances can be made so that Service personnel don’t face hinder or disadvantage as a result of their Service. The ‘Today and Tomorrow’ document provides details about everyday scenarios that may not quite suit Service-people and highlights special arrangements made in any number of areas that are available to help them, but namely and in particular: healthcare, education, tax and benefits, responsibility of care and support after Service. (Note that public bodies such as Local Authorities are permitted to sign the Armed Forces Covenant but are under no obligation to do so.)
The Armed Forces Covenant extends beyond government and it’s a reflection of its strength that it has been taken up by almost 1,700 companies and organisations, many of which are not even in the public sector. Amongst that number you’ll find organisations from the education, finance, public and government administration, manufacturing and healthcare sectors as well as business and service providers, showing that the Armed Forces Covenant is popular across the board. This is an important observation, not least because it shows widespread support and respect for Service personnel but also because it supports the notion that irrespective of your skills and what you’d like to do when you resettle, there’s likely to be an organisation that will welcome you. The fact that the Armed Forces Covenant is a purely voluntary statement of support is also worth noting.
With this in mind, no doubt you’ll want to find out which companies and organisations have signed the Covenant – and indeed a list of them is available at: www.sabre.mod.uk/.
Looking for Service-leavers
Naturally, you would expect that each of the organisations involved would look favourably on CVs from Service-leavers; although it is certainly not a ‘free pass’ towards a job, since other candidates cannot be subjected to discrimination, systems do exist such as ‘guaranteed interview’ schemes where Service-leavers that meet minimum criteria are given an opportunity to impress. The fact is that such employers are also likely to look more carefully at your background to see if they can find a fit to the sometimes very different experiences that Service-people bring to the table. The Armed Forces Covenant is not ‘charity’, it is support.
Of course, there are some organisations that make it clearer than others that they support the Armed Forces Covenant. They may well choose to participate more obviously in Armed Forces Day or publicise their commitments on corporate websites or by showing the logo in their shop window (perhaps indicating a discount for the Services community). Larger organisations, where numbers of ex-Services personnel are found in good numbers might well encourage the creation of networks within their organisation.
Support usually extends to Reservists and family members as well. For example, if your spouse is still Serving, a holiday request might be looked upon in a sympathetic light if the timing is close to deployment or in line with leave dates and of course requests made by members of the Reserve Forces to accommodate training (and deployment) would be similarly viewed.
Although the Armed Forces Covenant and Armed Forces Day have helped to raise the profile of the issues surrounding the challenges of resettlement, it may be the case that even in companies and organisations that have made a pledge, not everyone will be on-message. The person that sits behind the reception desk may not have the faintest idea what the Armed Forces Covenant is, let alone what it really represents. With this in mind, you also have to assume that your interviewer or the person you’re meeting regarding a vacancy may also not be fully up to speed and so it’s always worth taking the initiative and mentioning it as one of the reasons you’d like to get involved with them (although there is some danger in making them feel silly for not knowing about it).
Great Britain is not the homeland of a ‘warlike’ people but rather people that respect the service and sacrifice of the Armed Forces. The Armed Forces Covenant is not about banging a drum; in fact, it’s sometimes the subtle and hard to see things that are of most benefit to Service-leavers.
The Armed Forces Covenant is about an understanding of our moral responsibility to give due gratitude to Service personnel and a guarantee that the whole country is engaged and interested in integrating Service personnel and Service-leavers as they resettle.