AFF has delved deeper into researching the barriers to spousal employment among the Forces.

In partnership with Warwick University’s Institute for Employment Research and QinetiQ, we identified that nearly one-in-five military spouses or partners want to work but can’t get a job because of the unique challenges of military life.

The cost and availability of childcare, lack of a support network, negative attitudes from some employers, restrictions on working overseas and CVs showing many short-term roles because of frequent moves were all cited as key reasons for families struggling to find or maintain meaningful careers.

The findings

Our survey showed that many of you faced problems with getting a job in the first place and then trying to hold onto one. Almost half of the respondents felt that they had been discriminated against because of being a military spouse or partner.

One spouse said: “Even if I don’t mention my military connection, my CV shouts ‘Army’.”

Another added: “Employers know that you’ll be moving on after two years, so it’s not going to be a high-level position that you’re recruited into because the two-year pay back isn’t enough for them.”

Other findings showed that 63 per cent of you have had to change your career because of military life and 87 per cent believe that the barriers to getting and maintaining a job are harder for them than for civilian spouses.

Challenges for employers

The study also included input from employers, with some acknowledging that hiring Service spouses could present challenges such as lack of support with childcare and a likelihood that the person will move on. But not all employers had negative perceptions – 30 per cent said that military spouses show resilience and determination. One commented: “Military spouses are, in my opinion, an undervalued group, often side-lined in comparison to veterans and Service leavers.

“The workforce should represent the community it serves, so there should be military spouses in the workforce.”

What more can be done?

The report makes several recommendations to the MOD, support organisations, employers, and spouses and partners themselves, including:

  • Introduce a ‘one-stop shop’ online jobs platform for spouses and partners
  • Disseminate information on new ways of working to employers, such as short contracts and remote working, which may benefit military spouses
  • Source evidence of employers’ adherence to the Armed Forces Covenant and the Employer Recognition Scheme
  • Provide priority recruitment of military spouses for military-related jobs
  • Introduce university partnerships for spouses and partners to undertake training
  • Target employment support programmes to specific groups of spouses and partners, such as the less qualified.

There are also recommendations for long-term changes to help break down barriers:

  • Challenge the military culture
  • Provide subsidised childcare for military families
  • Challenge employer stereotypes of spouses and partners
  • Introduce more tailored training programmes and initiatives for groups of spouses and partners
  • Target overseas spouses and partners for support.

Sara Baade, AFF’s Chief Executive, said the report was much-needed, adding: “It will help us make the case for further investigation into the military partner employment issue to policy makers and stakeholders so they can see what is needed to help improve the situation, and hopefully work with us to implement some of the  recommendations.”

View the report at and look out for social media posts and further research that you can get involved in.

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