Royal Air Force, Highly Commended 2016, The American Express Best Flexible Working Initiative Award

Key features

  • New leave options that demonstrate a real commitment to flexibility in the armed forces, traditionally a difficult environment for flexibility to work.
  • Introduction of the ability to swap, enhance or bring forward leave, enabling personnel to take their leave in a pattern that suits them and their family.
  • To date 496 service personnel have accessed the new leave types.
  • The Ministry of Defence continues to monitor applications to enable the policy to be refined in the future.

Implementation of flexible working has been a real challenge for the armed forces to develop. Required to deploy anywhere in the world, for six months or more and at times with minimal notice, service personnel cannot always take their leave in a pattern that suits them. The Ministry of Defence recognised the need for additional and more flexible leave policies to enable Service personnel to balance work demands with quality time with friends and family. New policies must also be agreed by all three services which increases complexity.

Under direction of MoD HR policy staff the Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force developed a range of additional leave options that give personnel the ability to choose what works best for them at their particular stage of career and family life.

Four new types of leave were introduced in October 2015.

  • Transfer of annual leave between serving spouses allows personnel to share up to 10 days leave (15 days if they have been deployed within that leave year) with their serving spouse (no matter if they were serving in the Army, Navy or RAF). This allows the couple flexibility for care of children or for other family members, or to take some valuable time off together.
  • Bring Forward of Leave allows 10 days of the following years allocation to be brought into the current leave year.
  • Enhanced Leave allows a service person, after 15 years’ of service, to access an additional 20 days paid leave to supplement their entitlement of 30 days of annual leave, allowing then to take a period of 50 days in one block (10 weeks’ of continuous leave).
  • Career Intermissions allow Service personnel to be released from active duty for a specified period. Service personnel can now apply to take a Career Intermission ranging from three months to three years in length.

In supporting the introduction of the new leave types, the RAF developed a bespoke and proactive communications plan to encourage take up.  This has borne fruit as the RAF has had the greatest take up with 218 personnel, out of the 496 across all three services taking advantage of the new leave types. Numbers are expected to increase in the new leave year as the cultural barriers of flexible leave and working are further eroded.

The MoD is monitoring the uptake of new leave requests on a monthly basis in order to identify trends such as the most popular types, age groups and ranks and also any applications rejected and the reasons why. This will enable the leave types to be refined over time as needed. For the armed forces, these new types of leave show a real commitment in the search for workable flexibility which underpins long, successful careers.