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Fighting for Flexible Working

Fighting for Flexible Working

Tackling gender inequality in employment among the Armed Forces Community

The labour market poses a number of challenges to women, particularly amongst the Armed Forces community. Professor Lyonette and her team advised the Ministry of Defence on how to adopt flexible working practices to include both women in the military, and the wider military community of 65,000 military spouses and partners. With gender roles being entirely phased out in the military, it was essential to ensure that all could serve on equal terms.


The challenge

Against the background of a traditionally masculine culture within the UK military, female staff numbers are in decline. Serving women personnel, and personnel with partners struggling with their own careers, are leaving the military for more flexible, sustainable career options. Barriers to employment for military spouses include childcare, postings, changes in career path, lack of (re)training opportunities, lack of support from the MoD, and employers’ negative ideas about military spouses. Many spouses are therefore forced to choose between maintaining their career and following their spouse from posting to posting.


Our approach

As part of the project, the research team worked with a wide range of stakeholders across the military and the wider community to understand the barriers to employment and how working practices could be adapted to help remove those barriers, including:

  • Army Families Federation (AFF)

  • the MOD’s Chief of Defence People Directorate

  • Independent Armed Forces Pay Review Body

  • RFEA - the Forces Employment Charity


Our impact

Professor Lyonette and her researchers fed their work into the New Employment Model (NEM) team, which revisited flexible working options across the military. This included a pilot programme within the RAF, which was later rolled out to the other Services. Equally, the Warwick team contributed to the MOD’s Chief of Defence People Directorate’s submission to the Independent Armed Forces Pay Review Body in 2015. This continues to inform policy in relation to new personnel strategies across the MOD.

Professor Lyonette and the research team also helped to create a set of resources for the 65,000 military spouses and partners in the UK, including an online jobs board set up by Army Families Federation (AFF) as suggested by the team’s findings. Other contributions included a body of evidence to back up a new Families Programme, designed by RFEA to aid military spouses and partners. By working with the MoD and the wider military community, Professor Lyonette and the team has highlighted how women contest ‘traditional’ gender roles and expectations, tackling the gender inequality many women face within the Armed Forces labour market.

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