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Biggest challenge facing military exercise participation is loss of pay

Reservväelased saabumas õppekogenemisele Okas 23-3.
Reservväelased saabumas õppekogenemisele Okas 23-3. Source: kpr Marcus Liinamäe, rms Rasmus Allik

The biggest barrier to reservists participating in military exercises is loss of income as not all employers compensate staff for time away, the Ministry of Defense said on Friday.

"By and large, the biggest and most important reason is a reduction in income, i.e. they say they do not continue to be paid while they are on training exercises," Susan Lilleväli, undersecretary for defense readiness, said at a ministry briefing.

The official highlighted the results of a survey which shows 55 percent of employers are ready to support reservists, while 20 percent said they have no reservists on staff.

"This result is actually already very good and is on the way up. But there is still room for improvement," she said, adding that work is ongoing to explain to employers why this support is important.

To increase awareness, the ministry and the International Center for Defense Studies (ICDS) have started organizing national defense courses for employers. The first sessions took place this week and Lilleväli said interest was high.

"A lot of important questions were asked and interest was shown in its role in supporting national defense," she said.

Members of the 911th Air Base Defense Unit arriving at snap defense readiness exercise "Okas 23-3". Source: kpr Marcus Liinamäe, rms Rasmus Allik

"The course covered the security situation, the skills acquired during military service, the opportunity for businesses to contribute to national defense, and also lessons from the war in Ukraine for both national defense and employers-businesses," she outlined.

The undersecretary said the ministry will hold two more courses next year.

Lilleväli said the ministry is looking into how employers need more help supporting members of staff who are reservists.

Add military service to your CV

Job seekers could also add military service to their CVs when submitting applications, Lilleväli said.

"Together with the job portals we have worked with on this, we encourage people to mention their military service experience when writing CVs or cover letters. Employers also really appreciate this and is seen as important information," she said.

In addition, the ministry plans to start highlighting the role of reservists, Lilleväli said. This will be done next year before Estonia's biggest annual military exercise Spring Storm (Kevadtorm).

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Editor: Mait Ots, Helen Wright

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