As the war against Iraq looks increasingly inevitable, employers, including a number of law firms, are seeking advice on the legal issues concerning the 15,000 reservists that have been called up by the Ministry of Defence

Because reservists can be called-up with just 14 days notice, employment partner Jessica Learmond-Criqui at Altheimer & Gray said: “Employers will do well to consider these issues in advance.”

Failure to give reservists time off constitutes a criminal offence by an employer. However, if the loss of the worker will cause financial hardship that cannot be alleviated by financial assistance from the Secretary of State, an employer can seek an exemption within seven days of the call-up notice.

Learmond-Criqui said that while the worker is absent, their employment contracts are suspended and they are not entitled to receive cash or any other benefits. Nevertheless, some employers are topping up the pay that the reservists will receive from the Government.

She added that employers are also obliged to re-employ reservists in the same position on their return. If this is not possible, then the most favourable alternative must be offered.