The armed forces covenant is a priority for the Government. It places an obligation on the whole of society—including government at all levels, charitable bodies, private organisations and individuals—to support the armed forces community. The community covenant, which we launched in 2011, provides a mechanism for local authorities and other local organisations to show their commitment, and over 330 local authorities—over three quarters of the total across the United Kingdom—have now signed one.
The corporate covenant will now allow businesses of all sizes to express their support for the whole armed forces community as well.
The new corporate covenant is a written and publicised voluntary pledge from businesses and charitable organisations who wish to demonstrate their concrete support for the armed forces community. All corporate covenants include a core statement of commitment that businesses adopting the scheme sign up to, which reiterates the two key principles of the armed forces covenant. This states that:
no member of the armed forces community should face disadvantage in the provision of public and commercial services compared to any other citizen; and
in some circumstances special treatment may be appropriate, especially for the injured or bereaved.
In addition, each company or charitable organisation will be encouraged to offer support in a way most appropriate to their situation and capacity, with the pledge document including a “menu” of areas for them to sign up to. This menu covers employment support for veterans, reservists, service spouses and partners, as well as support for cadet units, Armed Forces day, and discounts for the armed forces community. For instance, in practical terms, this may mean committing to offer veterans and service spouses and partners job interviews, or providing extra leave to allow reservists to complete their training. There is also an opportunity for companies and charitable organisations to add their own commitments, based on local circumstances.
By offering companies and charitable organisations the opportunity to sign up to a range of commitments, we hope to encourage small and medium organisations as well as larger corporations, to participate in the corporate covenant.
Five key business organisations (the British Chambers of Commerce, the Business Services Association, the Confederation of British Industry, the Federation of Small Businesses, and the Institute of Directors) publically pledged their support for the corporate covenant at its launch on the eve of Armed Forces day. We will now begin a process of recruiting individual companies, both large and small across the UK, to sign up to the corporate covenant. We will report back to Parliament on the progress of this initiative later this year.
I am placing a copy of the corporate covenant and the associated concise guidance notes in the Library of the House and copies of both will also be available on the new website at: https://www.gov.uk/the-corporate-covenant.