I read with interest how a female soldier won a tribunal claim against the MOD last week, as they had not provided the childcare she needed to fulfil her duties as a soldier. We operate 4 nurseries, soon to be 5, on MOD bases around the UK, so this will undoubtedly be a much discussed issue with many of the serving parents who use our facilities. As an ex-soldier and working mother, I felt that there were many careers where I could manage to juggle my working responsibilities with that of being a mother, but as I didn’t want to deploy for 6 months at a time on operational tours (whilst my husband was also serving), it was time to leave the Army and look for a different career.
As a company we work really hard to support parents who are in the military and may be away for prolonged periods of time. Children like to talk about where their parents may be and we have had lots of displays up with postcards from around the world and photographs of Mum or Dad in their temporary location, which the children enjoy pointing to and talking about. However, all working parents, whether military or civilian, have demands on their time and will at some time or another have difficulty in juggling work and children. I can’t help but feel that this judgement will only place further strain on an already under-funded military and could be better spent on helping front-line troops. We all have to make choices and ask any working parent if it is easy, particularly as a single parent, and not many will say ‘yes’.
Hopefully some positives will come out of this case and perhaps the MOD will look more closely at the provision of childcare on MOD bases, as in some places it is fairly woeful. However, the responsibility for arranging childcare and being available for work must surely lie firmly with the individual, whichever career path they choose?