Introduction of Flexible Service – one year to go
Flexible Service will provide personnel with more options to help them manage their lives. With a year to go until launch, we talked to the leader of the project team responsible, Group Captain Justin Fowler, about what it means for Service Personnel and their families.
What is Flexible Service?
It involves a range of changes to introduce more flexibility in the way that people can serve in the Armed Forces, but the most significant change will be that members of the regular Armed Forces will be able to apply to temporarily work part-time or to restrict their level of separation, a bit like being a Reserve for a while. This will replace the Flexible Duties Trial that is currently running. Some people may have heard of our project title – the ‘Flexible Engagements System (FES)’, or the Armed Forces (Flexible Working) Bill that Parliament recently debated.
Why do we need Flexible Service?
Because people have said that they want it and we need to modernise to continue to recruit and retain the talented people that the Armed Forces need. The impact of service on family life is consistently the highest reason people give for thinking of leaving and in a recent survey 70% of our personnel said they wanted opportunities for a flexible approach to work.
When will Flexible Service be available?
By April 2019, after we have made the necessary changes to the law, our pay, pensions and IT systems and made other arrangements.
What does Flexible Service mean for individual people and their families?
Personnel will be able to apply to work part time or to have a restriction placed on the number of days serving away from their home base (or both) for up to 3 years at a time. No-one will be forced to take this, but equally people must be clear that they will not be granted this unless their Service can manage any impact on operational capability. Service need will come first. The part-time arrangements will allow people to have one or two days off work per week, although other routines could be agreed. People will not be able to reduce their duties by more than 40%. The restricted separation option would prevent someone from being away from their home base more than a specified number of days per year and so it would protect people and their families from the longer periods of separation, such as deployments. But both options will result in a proportional loss of pay and so people will need to think carefully before they apply, and to discuss their expectations with their chain of command. If granted, Flexible Service will provide a strong degree of certainty for people to allow them to plan their lives, and this will be great for families, but the Service will be able to cancel or suspend Flexible Service arrangements if necessary where circumstances have fundamentally changed, for instance a national emergency.
What does Flexible Service mean for those that don’t take it?
This is a very significant change in the way that people can serve in the Armed Forces, which is why it requires the law to be changed. We know that some people are concerned about how it might impact on operational capability or on their workload if someone else on their team works part time. This is why applications will only be approved by the Services where operational capability can be maintained. However, if we are to make the most of these new opportunities, people at all levels will need to look for ways to support applications by finding different ways of doing things. For example, we know that the Services expect to create new part-time Reserves roles to undertake some of the work.
Did you find this information useful?
This news story is one of the many articles that originate from the RAF FF’s Envoy magazine. You can read stories like this first hand from your own copy by subscribing free of charge online and have your copy delivered home four times a year. All Service personnel and any family members are welcome to subscribe.