Third of recruiters are reluctant to hire ex-military personnel, says charity

Survey reveals half of employers worry about taking on veterans ‘in case they suffer mental health issues’

Almost a third of recruiters are reluctant to hire someone who served in the armed forces, a charity has said, with many employers assuming they are more likely to struggle with mental health problems. 

In the survey, by armed forces charity SSAFA, 31 per cent of recruiters said they felt reluctant to employ someone who had previously served in the military. 

The poll, which surveyed 250 recruiters and 2,197 workers across the UK on their attitudes towards working with former military personnel, revealed mental health remained a significant barrier in the recruitment process, and said military leavers were the “most stigmatised” in this area.

Nearly half (46 per cent) of recruiters said they would worry about hiring service leavers “in case they had mental health issues”, and more male recruiters (35 per cent) than female recruiters (28 per cent) said they would feel reluctant to employ an armed forces leaver.

James Grant, head of corporate fundraising and events at the SSAFA, said one of the “selling points” of joining the armed forces was learning skills that were transferable to civilian live – but the survey revealed some employers did not recognise the value service leavers could add to their business. 

“We see that there’s a false perception over armed forces personnel suffering from mental health issues – yet it is a common condition that affects many people, service men and women or not,” Grant said. “A career in service to our country should always be met with pride and gratitude.”

Ornella Nsio, stakeholder engagement manager at the Recruitment & Employment Confederation, told People Management it was disappointing to see the negative attitudes towards veterans among people involved in hiring. 

She added: "Former military personnel can often find it very difficult to adapt to life outside the armed forces, but having a stable, productive job can go a long way in helping them integrate back into civilian life.

"Employers have a duty to stamp out toxic attitudes, open up their hiring procedures to a wide variety of applicants and take good care of all their workers, no matter what their background." 

In the survey, just half (48 per cent) of UK workers said they would feel comfortable working with someone who had been in the armed forces, and 8 per cent of workers associated service leavers with being ‘aggressive’, while 6 per cent said individuals who had been in the military were ‘short tempered’. 

Conversely, 43 per cent of workers said they would feel proud to work alongside veterans.

Many associated positive qualities with service leavers like being a team player (57 per cent), a problem solver (42 per cent) and resilient (41 per cent). 

Jessica Rose, employment campaign manager at Business in the Community, said that while the SSAFA research showed many people recognised the essential skills ex-military personnel can offer employers, there was a “gulf” between this recognition and employment practices.

“Military service fosters leadership, organisational skills, resilience and problem-solving – all skills employers agree they need in their future workforces,” Rose said. “Employers have a responsibility and an opportunity to support ex-military personnel to successfully transition into meaningful second careers.”

Rose explained businesses could show their support for former military talent by putting a plan in place to hire and grow service leaders in their organisation, which would “open up a rich source of talent at a time when skills are in high demand”.