What is it?
Mobilisation is "calling-out" Reservists to full time service with their relevant regular force (Royal Naval Reserve, Territorial Army, Royal Marines Reserve, Royal Auxiliary Air Force Volunteer Reserve) on military operations.
Although compulsory mobilisation can be disruptive, selective compulsory mobilisation using volunteers is the preferred method of employing Reservists, though this is not always possible, particularly if there is a large scale Call-out.
A chance to serve - volunteering to go
A reservist can volunteer to be compulsorily mobilised, offering to serve full time.
Regular UK forces are aided on virtually all their operations by Reservists. Since the mid nineties these have included operations in Kosovo, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Macedonia and Iraq.
Agreement of the employer is sought if a Reservist wants to volunteer to be compulsorily mobilised. Obviously this is a matter to be discussed with both family and employer but civilian employers can appeal against their employee being mobilised (irrespective of whether they volunteer to go or not) if the mobilisation would damage their business. However many employers consider that some full-time military service offers invaluable experience, where the Reservist perhaps forms part of a technical team or group, even leading such a group, while facing tough or demanding conditions in a different part of the world.
When the call comes - compulsory mobilisation
The Reserve Forces Act 1996 (RFA 96) sets out three main situations under which compulsory mobilisation can take place:
If it appears that national danger is imminent or a great emergency has arisen or in the event of an actual or apprehended attack on the United Kingdom (Sections 52 (Mobilisation) and 68 (Recall)).
If it appears that warlike operations are in preparation or progress (Section 54), e.g. Bosnia, 1995-96.
If it appears necessary or desirable to use Armed Forces on operations outside the United Kingdom for the protection of life or property; or on operations anywhere in the world for the alleviation of distress or the preservation of life or property in time of disaster or apprehended disaster, (section 56), e.g. the Balkans.
Compulsory mobilisation where a reservist's consent is not obtained is more unusual. It usually happens only when regular units need to deploy in large numbers but don't have sufficient personnel with the required skills or experience "in house". Most recently this has happened to some individuals who were mobilised to form units in Afghanistan in 2001 and in Iraq and the wider Gulf region in 2003/4.
What happens on mobilisation?
On mobilisation, a Reservist will receive a formal letter of Call-out (or "Call-out Notice") from the Ministry of Defence (MoD), as well as mobilisation papers. This letter will set out the date and possible duration of mobilisation. Information on the statutory rights and obligations of both Reservist and his or her employer - including any entitlement to apply for financial assistance or an exemption or deferral from mobilisation under certain circumstances - will be provided in accompanying guides.
Period of Notice
The Reserve Forces Act makes no statutory requirement for a warning period to be given prior to any compulsory mobilisation. However, it is likely that the general public in the UK would be well aware of any situation that might demand it a long way ahead of mobilisation actually happening.
The MoD recognises that Reservists need time to get ready and put their affairs in order, plus sort things out with their employer prior to mobilisation. So, subject always to the nature of the crisis, it is the general stated hope that Reservists should have at least 3 weeks' warning of the date they are required to report.
Financial Assistance for Reservists
It is recognised that some Reservists may have civilian income that exceeds their Service pay. Regulations have been made that allow the difference between Service pay and civilian income to be made up, subject to certain limitations. There are also separate provisions dealing with the loss of certain benefits in kind. The regulations that govern these rules are called The Reserve Forces (Call-out and Recall) (Financial Assistance) Regulations 2005, Statutory Instrument 2005 No 859. Full details of the scheme can be found at the following website:
Web site: Statutory Instrument 2005 No. 859
A Reservist is entitled to appeal against any compulsory mobilisation. The basis for such an appeal will rest wholly on the anticipated problems it will cause him or her or the employer to leave their normal place of work and home. Matters such as disabled dependants, unusual or crucial work responsibilities, or even MoD related tasks (such as working for MoD research facilities) might influence the outcome of an appeal. Details of how to appeal are given in the mobilisation documents. Adjudication Officers are officers with experience of the management of any of the Reserve Forces or officers with experience of the Reserve Forces who are appointed to adjudicate on applications for financial assistance or on applications against call-out or recall. The reservist and/or employer can appeal to the Reserve Forces Appeal Tribunal (RFAT) against any decision made by an Adjudication Officer. The RFAT is an independent body. The case will be heard and decided by a "Tribunal Panel". Usually there are three people on the Panel, a legally qualified chairman and two lay members (i.e. members who are not lawyers), although some hearings are heard by a Chairman alone. The lay members are usually an experienced union official and someone with management experience.