By Daniel Hunter

A new survey published today (Thursday) by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) suggests one in three (30%) small businesses are failing to hire reservists from the Army, Navy and Air Force.

The FSB believes a lack of support and investment is to blame and says SME's need more Government backing to encourage recruitment and to give reservists the support they need.

Responding to the Government consultation Future Reserves 2020, the FSB has said better communication from Government is key for small firms to employ a reservist — 89 per cent of respondents to an FSB snap poll said that they hadn't heard of the Ministry of Defence's Employer Awareness Events.

Furthermore, 86 per cent of FSB members said that any Government support to businesses employing reservists should focus on the specific needs of small and micro firms, rather than big business.

Specifically, a financial incentive (39%), help in finding replacement staff (30%) and flexibility in the training schedule (21%) would encourage more businesses to employ a reservist in the future. Almost half (48%) said that they would ideally require two to three months notice if one of their employees were to be mobilised.

"At the end of 2012 the Government said that it would work with employers of reservists and give them more notice before their staff are deployed. These results suggest the support cannot come soon enough," John Walker, National Chairman, Federation of Small Businesses, said.

"We have long said that the smallest firms may find it more difficult to be supportive of employing a reservist, especially as each employee makes such a large proportion of a workforce. Better communication, information and support that are tailored to the needs of small firms are a must if they are to consider taking one on.

"There is an appetite among some small businesses to hire a reservist in the future, but there are clear areas the Government must address. Putting the needs of the smallest firms at the heart of reforms would be a good start.

"While small firms are flexible by the nature of their size, they feel that more help to recruit a replacement would be beneficial. The Ministry of Defence must look to engage with the sector to help provide the assistance needed."

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