Winning the talent war with military spouses 


A thread running through ILC’s New Generation in Claims event held in Manchester recently was the need to approach recruitment differently in order to access a more diverse talent pool. 

Speaking at the event were Heledd Kendrick and Cerise Upham, CEO and Managing Director of Recruit for Spouses (RFS), who revealed that thousands of highly skilled and flexible employees were just a phone call away. 

RFS was set up in 2009 and help the spouses of those serving in the armed forces connect with employers on either or a temporary or permanent basis. Many have incredible qualifications, but all, says Heledd, have the resilience and resourcefulness needed to be a military partner. 

Discrimination 

She herself was an experienced journalist but discovered after marrying into the forces and living on base that it was impossible to get a job.  

She explained, “Employers wouldn’t hire anyone married to someone serving in the forces because they could move on at any time.” 

In fact, she discovered that a large proportion of military spouses weren’t working at the time and as such she established RFS, initially to help the wives and partners on her base find employment. But it wasn’t straightforward. Regulations at the time restricted the work that military partners were able to do, and Heledd faced a battle both politically and within the military to change things. 

She said, “As military spouses we are seen as dependents. Because I was setting up a social business I had to go the House of Lords to change a rule which would allow us to work from home. I also started petitions and got responses from people all over the world.” 

Her persistence paid off, and now RFS has helped more than 10,000 military partners into employment.  

She said, “We’ve become a recruitment agency. The great thing is we help and support those of who are serving, but we also offer employers access to candidates who are resourceful, resilient, and able to adapt to new situations quickly. We know how to get a job done, so if you can support these people, you’ll get an amazing worker.” 

Skills 

However, RFS is not just about unemployment; it is also about underemployment. Its survey of 8,000 military partners found that 70% have degrees but 30% earn less than £20,000. 

Cerise said, “We have some people with phenomenal talents but they’re not being used, they’re working for the minimum wage doing jobs that don’t match their skills. So we have an immense talent pool that is accessible. They might need the understanding of an employer, but remote and hybrid working enables employers to reach out to candidates with different circumstances.” 

To smooth the journey, RFS operates a liquid workforce, which enables spouses to ease back into employment gradually by working the hours that are appropriate to them, and then building up as confidence grows and circumstances change.  

However, it’s not just the employee who benefits. 

Cerise explained, “It also enables employers to be more nimble with their workforce, allowing them to scale up and scale down when necessary. They are also able to take on employees without paying a fee when they’re ready, and 99% of liquid workforce get offered permanent work.” 

ILC’s New Gen in Claims event took place at etc.venues in Manchester, backed by lead Sponsors Carpenters Group and Enterprise along with Ambassadors: Activate Group, Edam Group, Gemini ARC, Kennedys, S&G Response and Solera Audatex.  

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