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As the regular army is cut to its smallest size in the modern era, Territorial Army reservists are set to play a greater role in the UK military.The number of fully trained reservist volunteers is expected to double to 30,000, while the number of regular troops will fall from 102,000 to 82,000. The government is publishing a consultation paper this autumn setting out its proposals for reservists, and calling for employer views on implementation.“Being able to mobilise and train a higher proportion of reservists is not going to work if employers are not part of that solution,” says Tim Corry, director of SaBRE (Support for Britain’s Reservists and Employers).SaBRE research conducted last year found that 87 per cent of employers would be very supportive if an employee was mobilised. But the government’s latest move has led to claims that businesses which lose full-time staff to the front line are effectively funding defence cuts. However, says Corry, while SMEs may feel the absence of a member of staff more keenly than a larger organisation, they could benefit from the transferable skills that reservists gain from their training and experience.Dean Hyde, managing director of Amalgam8 Training, where one of the six full-time staff is a reservist, agrees that employees in the Territorial Army are often particularly loyal and disciplined in their work.“It’s a shame that some staff fear telling their employers that they are a reservist. And employers don’t always ask about their skills, which could be valuable to the workforce on a strategic management level,” he said.Hyde gives talks on the subject to other small businesses and acknowledges the fears they often have about the sudden deployment of staff. But he points out that in practice, the MoD gives sufficient notice to allow firms to make contingency plans to cover the employee’s work.Hyde’s firm provides additional unpaid leave for its reservist staff member to attend his annual two-week training camp, but employers are not obliged to do this and many workers use their annual leave instead.Employers do not pay the wages of staff who are called up for duty and can be eligible for financial assistance – such as recruitment and administration costs – to fill the role temporarily. But they are required to reinstate employees when they return, or offer an equivalent alternative.Defence secretary Philip Hammond has said that the government will consider introducing “any legislation necessary to underpin and support our vision for the reserves” – although the details have yet to be decided.Naeema Choudry, an employment partner at Eversheds, warns that while any “onerous” new laws could spark a backlash from employers, there were areas where the government might seek to make changes. This could include forcing employers to offer paid leave or additional holiday entitlement for reservists’ training, and making the period of mobilisation count towards employees’ continuity of service, she said.Employee claims of unfair treatment because of their reservist role are a rarity, but being treated less favourably could conceivably become a new form of detriment, Choudry added.