Page last updated at 14:49 GMT, Monday, 14 April 2008 15:49 UK

Business groups back reservists

The three business leaders at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan
The trip highlights the support available to small business and reservists

The heads of the three British business groups have been in Afghanistan to show support for the UK reserve force there.

The British Chambers of Commerce, the Institute Of Directors and Federation of Small Businesses bosses all visited.

The visit highlights to small firms the importance of employers backing staff in the reserve forces, and the advice available on employing such reservists.

Going on repeated tours presents particular difficulties for soldiers who also have a regular civilian job.

'Valuable skills'

Sabre (Supporting Britain's Reservists and Employers) is a Ministry of Defence campaign which aims to build support for members of the reserve forces from their employers.

It has formed an advisory panel bringing together experts in small business.

As well as the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) and Institute of Directors (IOD), the panel also includes the Confederation of British Industry and the Forum of Private Business.

David Frost, director general of BCC, said: "Members of the reserve forces undergo rigorous training, gaining many new and highly valuable skills which can be easily transferred into the workplace.

"Here [Afghanistan] reservists demonstrate on a daily basis an ability to communicate, work under pressure and take responsibility for their actions - qualities which many employers in the UK struggle to find in employees."

'Brilliant jobs'

John Wright, chairman of the FSB, said reservists were carrying out a wide ranger of roles in Afghanistan.

"However, the fact is that without the support of their employers, it would be much more difficult for them to do the brilliant jobs they are doing today," he said.

He said small businesses were able to access a wealth of advice and support on employing a reservist, through his own organisation and Sabre.

Miles Templeman, director-general of the IOD, added: "Many reservists I've met in Afghanistan have talked about how important it is to them to have the support of their employer.

"Whilst employers generally recognise the valuable work reservists do and the skills they can bring to the workplace, it can still be hard for businesses, and particularly small businesses to give their support to reservist employees."

Big backers

Last summer, more than 100 of the UK's largest firms officially pledged their support for the country's volunteer soldiers, sailors and air crews.

The firms, including BT, Tesco, and Barclays, joined a campaign to get other employers, both in the public and private sector, to follow suit.

The aim of the initiative was for all firms to put in place a written policy on allowing reservists time off work.

That campaign was also organised by Sabre.

Firms pledge to back reserve army
05 Jun 07 |  Business

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