Written answers

Thursday, 15 October 2020

Department of Defence

Defence Forces Reserve

Duncan Smith (Dublin Fingal, Labour)
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164. To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence his plans to provide employment protection legislation for reservists to allow for the undertaking of courses, exercises or other activities within the Defence Forces; the cost of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30699/20]

Photo of Simon CoveneySimon Coveney (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
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Ensuring an appropriate balance between voluntary activities and work and home life is a key challenge that is common to individuals involved in many voluntary activities throughout the State. In order to facilitate the voluntary nature of Reserve service therefore, and to maximise attendance of Army Reserve (AR) and Naval Service Reserve (NSR) members, I am advised by the Military Authorities that training is normally organised both in and out of normal working hours, at weekends and during academic and traditional holiday periods. However, the current public health guidelines associated with COVID-19 have had an impact on training this year.

Nevertheless, as members of the Defence Forces continue to contribute to the Government’s response to the current public health crisis, Some members of the (Reserve Defence Force) RDF who have skills which are required in the COVID 19 response, have been engaged in authorised COVID 19 training activities in support of the PDF, on a voluntary basis, and where their personal circumstances allow.

Members of the RDF are paid in such circumstances and their support is welcomed, however, these activities are also undertaken on a voluntary basis. In light of the implications for both employers and potential employees and the voluntary nature of RDF activities, there are no plans to introduce employment protection legislation for RDF members, for such activities or training.

The provisions underpinning deployment of the AR and NSR are contained in the Defence Act 1954 and Defence Forces Regulation R5. This legislation provides for, amongst other things, the call out of members of the RDF on permanent service during periods of emergency. The Deputy will be aware that while the Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (COVID-19) Act 2020 provides for employment protection measures in the event that RDF members are called out in such circumstances, there are currently no plans to do so.

The Programme for Government provides for the establishment of a Commission on the Defence Forces. The Work of the Commission will inform the future development of the RDF.

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