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How to Support Military Reservists in the Workplace

If your company employs members of the military Reserve or National Guard, consider yourself lucky—they are a credit to you and to the country. Consider how you can best support them as they juggle their demanding dual roles as both service members and civilian employees. 

Your company is subject to the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), which protects the jobs of military members. But caring employers do more than maintain compliance—that goes without saying.

There are ways to help your employees balance their service commitments with their day jobs, and when you do so graciously and gratefully, your employees will benefit—and you will, too.

Understanding Military Leave 

Currently, the U.S. Armed Forces employs roughly 800,000 reservists and 444,000 National Guard members—and all of them are required to take military leave from work for training, mobilization, and possibly deployment.

During peacetime, both Reserve and Guard members are required to train about one weekend each month, plus two weeks each summer, for a total of 39 days per year. In addition, they may be called up to active duty if needed.

Admittedly, this can create challenges for employers and coworkers, especially when given short notice. However, these can be minimized by fostering good communication, setting clear expectations, and creating a culture of proud support—and here’s some ideas for doing just that.  

Create a Company Policy 

The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) recommends creating a company policy regarding military leaves, providing both managers and employees with guidelines and expectations. This should include how employees should notify you of upcoming leaves, who to contact, and the best way to go about it.

While Reservists and Guard members are advised to provide their employers with as much advance notice as possible, sometimes—say, when Guard members are called up to respond to natural disasters—it’s on very short notice, something managers and coworkers need to understand and learn how to navigate. 

Plan Proactively for Leave Periods 

No matter how much notice you’ve been given, the best way to prepare for an employee’s military leave is to plan in advance how your team will handle their absence.

That means identifying all your employee’s key responsibilities and determining who will complete those tasks in their absence. If cross-training is required, address it proactively. Identify a backup for your backup—and a communication plan for notifying these employees, too.  

Get to Know ESGR 

Employers Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) is a Department of Defense office designed to promote understanding and cooperation between employers and employees who serve. It offers both parties strategies for handling common challenges and building stronger bonds—tools you may wish to share with your managers.

The ESGR also sponsors events, such as Bosslifts, which gives employers a glimpse of their workers’ military lives, and recognizes employers that excel at supporting their Reservists. It also encourages employers to sign a Statement of Support for National Guard and Reserve members—something your employees may be proud to see displayed in your office.  

Ask How You Can Help 

A little good communication can go a long way. By asking your military employees how you can better support them, you demonstrate that you are committed to their well-being. In addition, it may yield some enlightening information that you can use to improve your policies.

At the end of the day, your organization should take great pride in your Reservist, Guard, and veteran employees—and take steps to support their success in your workplace.

For more on becoming an Armed Forces-friendly employer, learn why your next hire should be a military veteran.

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