Organisation: Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council
Case study: Laura (pictured below)
Being a military spouse can make finding and keeping employment difficult. The hours you’re available to work and the length of postings can all go against you. Army spouse Laura has enjoyed a positive experience with a supportive employer who enabled her to switch to home-based working.
Laura said: “When I met and married my husband, I was working for Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council as a planning enforcement officer. I was lucky enough to find the same work in two further postings but after my first daughter was born, we were posted to Northern Ireland and decided I would take a career break and enjoy being a mum.
“Almost three years later, we were posted back to the mainland so I began to look for work. I ruled out full-time work due to inflexibility, so I got a job in a garden centre café. I enjoyed the job but wanted to get back to local government work.
“Our next posting took us back to Nuneaton and I was delighted to find a job at the same authority that fitted in with childcare. It was perfect.
“I had been working at the council for almost two years when an internal promotion became available, which I applied for and was subsequently offered. However, just two weeks before I was due to start, my husband was told our request to extend at our existing posting had been rejected and a new assignment order had been released. I immediately spoke to my line manager, who was very supportive and advised me to continue with my promotion, even if it meant I was only doing it for a couple of months.”
Laura continued: “I began thinking about the Armed Forces Covenant. I had some basic knowledge about it ensuring Service children are not disadvantaged, so started to wonder if it extended to military spouses too.
“I met my local AFF co-ordinator at a toddler group and she gave me contact details for Laura Lewin, the AFF Employment Specialist. Laura advised me to talk to my manager and to mention the Covenant.
“I had an informal chat with my line manager who was very encouraging and told me she did not want to lose a knowledgeable and experienced member of staff. She spoke to HR about my post being permanently based at home – there were some obstacles to this but she felt they could all be resolved.”
Laura said: “A day or so later I was told the council would support my homeworking request. This was the best possible outcome. I could continue with a job I love, working with people who were happy to support me and my lifestyle, without the worry of trying to find a new job when future posting orders arrive.
“I would recommend that any military spouse who finds themselves in a similar position as me, contacts AFF for support and advice.”
Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council signed the Armed Forces Covenant in 2012.
Senior housing asset management officer Yvonne explained: “It’s important for our organisation to recognise the role of the Armed Forces within Nuneaton and Bedworth and seek to improve access to and understanding of how our services can respond to their needs.
“Employing military spouses and Reservists means our organisation is representative of the local population and furthers our aim to become a more Forces friendly employer.
“It was a simple process in ensuring Laura’s, and indeed the council’s, needs could be met when making her role home-based. Skype and home working is encouraged throughout our organisation. Taking minutes at meetings was a concern but this was overcome with group Skype meetings. This allowed Laura to join meetings and still feel part of the team. Our contractors who attend the meetings have embraced this way of working too.
“The Covenant is a useful agreement between public sector agencies across Warwickshire which we will promote.”
AFF Employment, Training, Allowances and Money Specialist Laura Lewin said: “I’m delighted that Laura’s employer considered her flexible working request appropriately and acknowledged that it was feasible for Laura to continue doing her job just as well whilst working from home.
“AFF encourages other employers to consider updating their policies to incorporate flexible working to ensure that they recognise the Armed Forces and the demands it places on employees.
“As families can move every two years, flexible working, home working and portable careers could enable spouses to maintain a career.”