A word from Employment & Training Specialist, Lucy Ritchie

AFF is very aware of the challenges that face army spouses and partners in finding their professional groove. For many army families the financial stability that a career affords seems out of reach as the frequency of moves, the serving partner’s unpredictable working hours and the costs and availability of childcare can feel like insurmountable barriers.

In a recent Forces in Mind Trust-sponsored report*, which examined the financial stability of UK military families, more than 85 per cent of army partners felt that service life had negatively impacted partner employment.

We often hear how, for families with young children, the challenges posed by the lack of choice and availability of childcare, and the costs associated with it, are huge barriers to being able to work. This is often compounded by postings away from your wider family who might provide childcare support if you were able to live closer.

The frequency of moves affects many spouses and partners looking to build a career or have a stable job. Many find that promotion or training opportunities are unavailable to them as they are not with an employer long enough.

There has been progress in employers understanding the nature of service life and the impact that this can have on partner employment and it is positive to see more employers sign the Armed Forces Covenant and introduce military spouse support policies. However, the report highlighted that there is still a perceived reluctance from employers to hire military partners, so more must be done.

In the post-Brexit, post-pandemic world, spousal employment overseas has become increasingly fraught. AFF is starting to see evidence that families are increasingly choosing to do unaccompanied overseas tours to ensure stability for their children and to retain partner employment. For other families, we are witnessing impacts on spousal careers following overseas postings.

Meaningful employment opportunities not only help the family bank balance and give long-term stability, but give a sense of identity, purpose and self-worth.

So, what is AFF doing to support partner employment? We are working closely with the chain of command and the MOD to ensure that partner employment remains at the forefront of their minds, highlighting the wide-ranging impact that it has on both the engagement and retention of the service person, as well as their partner.

We continue to build Forces Families Jobs (forcesfamiliesjobs.co.uk) – the tri-Service employment and training platform.

We are working to improve employers’ understanding of the demands of service life, and the benefits of employing military spouses and partners – you are a resourceful, independent and loyal bunch! And we are just completing a project to better understand how we can support army spouses and partners with their employment and training in the future.

We are working closely with the other Families Federations in demanding clear and coherent guidance on spousal employment overseas, so that families are able to make well-informed decisions about what’s right for them. We have now launched our 2024 Big Survey which will focus on spousal employment – we’re keen to hear from you on what the barriers, and opportunities, are in the current employment landscape. Look out for more details on our work at aff.org.uk

*Examining the financial stability of UK military families, RAND, June 2023

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