An online survey conducted by the Army Families Federation (AFF) has revealed just how intense working life is for military personnel. 71% of surveyed personnel reported that their hours had increased considerably in the last 2 years and 64% reported that they work more than 10 hours a day.
The strains of working long days have been felt by the majority of us at some stage in life and most will agree that it takes its toll on one’s health and wellbeing. Rest and recuperation from work is vital for anyone, but especially for military personnel whose working life is particularly demanding. Whilst at work soldiers are expected to perform at an optimum level at all times. However, to continue performing at a high intensity for such long hours without adequate recovery periods is simply unsustainable. It will inevitably start to negatively affect the mental and physical health of soldiers.
Soldiers who are tired and unhealthy will be more susceptible to physical injuries as a result of negligence and will also be at greater risk of suffering from mental health problems. The AFF’s report also noted that being overworked creates obstacles to the injury recovery process and can exacerbate existing conditions. We are already too aware of the mental health problems in the military and the AFF’s report illustrates that small changes such as more reasonable working hours may make a significant difference to personnel. Whilst the NHS, Police and Psychiatrists have committed to the Crisis Care Concordat this week in order to address mental health problems, we are left still asking at what point will the state of affairs become so terrible for personnel that the military are forced to take action?
The situation is set to get worse as the military continue to make redundancies in their move towards Army 2020. With budget cuts demanding a smaller force, remaining soldiers will be required to take on greater stress and pressure to cover the redundant roles. We urge the defence secretary to act urgently to establish a better work-life balance for military personnel, particularly given the current mental health problems that remain widespread in the services.
by Hannah Ashcroft, Trainee Solicitor at Hilary Meredith Solicitors