Serving as a Reservist

As a Reservist, your training, skills and experience will serve you well in your military role. Likewise, they will be valuable assets in your civilian role and benefit your employer. Explaining the benefits of the training, skills and experience to your employer will encourage them to support you as a Reservist.

The following information will assist you when discussing your Reserve commitments with your employer, including how your employer will gain by your involvement as a Reservist. The information will also explain your rights and responsibilities as well as how to manage a complaint when issues arise with your employer.

In this section:

You & your employer

There may be times when your commitments as a Reservist and as an employee clash. Managing the issue early and effectively will go a long way to maintaining a good working relationship with your employer. Better still, there are many things that you can do to significantly reduce the likelihood of clashing in the first place. Building a relationship and communicating with your employer is a good start. 

As a Reservist, there will be opportunities to undertake training and to render Defence Reserve service when required.

This means you will be absent from your civilian employment to meet your Reservist commitments.

Sometimes it's a challenge to balance your Defence Reserve commitments with your civilian employment commitments. Properly managed, you'll be up to the challenge.

Build an inclusive relationship with your employer ‒ tips

1. Provide your employer with adequate notice
  • Provide your employer with a 6-12 month plan of your intended Reserve service at the start of each year, even when specific dates are not yet known.
  • Once you know the exact dates of your upcoming Reserve service, tell your employer as soon as possible. Give them as much notice as you can of your absence.
  • Providing notice in advance lets your employer plan for your absence and prepare the necessary paperwork to claim Employer Support Payment Scheme payments. They will be far more supportive when they can see you are doing your best to inform them.
  • Give your employer and HR department written notification of the dates you will be absent. This is best done by using the approved AE 380, Tri-Service Notice of ADF Reserve Service. This form provides all the details of your intended ADF Reserve service as well as written confirmation of the completed ADF Reserve service.
  • As a courtesy, remind your employer closer to the date that you'll be away to render Defence Reserve service.
  • Inform your employer at the earliest opportunity if there are any changes to the original start and finish dates of your Defence Reserve service and provide written notification on request.
2. Work with your employer's business commitments

Wherever possible, talk with your employer about when are the best times throughout the year to render your Defence Reserve service.

Discuss possible solutions with your employer when your absence from the work place is going to create an issue.

Be prepared to change your training or deployment dates. Talk with your Commanding Officer to accommodate the needs of your employer or course of studies. Your Commanding Officer will appreciate your concern and will probably commend you for your initiative.

When you're called for service ‒ the steps

3. Keeping your employer up-to-date with your military achievements

Many employers will be keen to follow your Defence Reserve service career if you give them the chance to do so.

This involves keeping your employer in the loop. Let them know about your training achievements and how this training applies to your job. Whether it is job specific or military development training, it can often be applied to your civilian role.

You don't have to give away sensitive information to engage your employer. If you're not sure what you can tell them, ask your chain of command.

Involving your employer with your Defence Reserve service will allow them to gain a much better understanding of what the Reserves are about. They can see how your skills and knowledge can help you in your civilian career and how it is an asset to your organisation. It will also be a great opportunity for them to support you in what you're striving to achieve as a Reservist.

4. Military leave policy

Much of the information provided above can be easily recorded for future reference. Talk to your employer and HR department about including your responsibilities in a Reservist leave policy. Your employer will then be able to direct you and other Reservists to this policy to ensure the support provided by your employer is understood.

Private sector leave policy template (39KB)

Supportive Employers can also elect to have their logo posted on our website. This is a free service provided to employers in recognition of their support for Defence Reservists.

Supportive Employers list

5. Contact us

We're always happy to talk to you or your employer about matters relating to your Defence Reserve service.

For further information, clarification or assistance, please contact us.

Telephone: 1800 671 998


Remember … always thank your employer for their support. They'll appreciate and remember it.

Selling the benefits

It's important to sell the benefits of being a Reservist to your employer … tell them what they get.

Benefits to your employer

As a Reservist, you're highly motivated, clear-thinking and prepared to learn.

This is why more and more employers recognise the value you bring to the workplace.

Talk with your employer about what you can offer them as a Reservist. This helps them understand and appreciate your potential. It will help you get their support.

As a Reservist, let your employer know that:

  1. You have the ability to accept a high level of responsibility.

For example, you may be responsible for the maintenance of sophisticated and expensive equipment that you may not ordinarily come in to contact with in your civilian role. This level of responsibility is further enhanced as you progress through military ranks on promotion and advancement to higher skill levels.

  1. You are dependable, trust worthy and can be relied upon to carry out tasks to a high degree of detail. You are also accustomed to being punctual and are eager to provide valuable service.
  2. You are highly trained and gain valuable experience from the tasks you undertake. Your ongoing training and increased task complexities add to your skills and experience year by year.
  3. Your training will help develop your teamwork and leadership skills, organisational abilities and the ability to cope under pressure.
  4. You could also receive training in first aid, firefighting, health and safety, fraud and ethics and contingency planning. All of which are valuable in any situations including your civilian workplace.
  5. Best of all, it is at no cost to your employer.

When selling your strong points, remember to look at the benefits from your employer's point of view.

Protecting your rights to serve as a Reservist

Do you need to discuss your rights as a Reservist or your employer's obligations? The Office of Reserve Service Protection (ORSP or the Office) is able to assist you.

Contact details for the Office of Reserve Service Protection

Telephone: 1800 671 998

Contact us form

Address: The Office of Reserve Service Protection, Department of Defence, PO Box 7925, Canberra ACT 2610.

Fax: 02 6127 4650



About the Defence Reserve Service (Protection) Act 2001 and the Office of Reserve Service Protection

The Defence Reserve Service (Protection) Act 2001 (the Act) applies to Reservists who undertake, have undertaken or will undertake Reserve service. The Act may also apply to applicants who are attending appointments as part of the recruitment process to become a Reservist.

The ORSP is an Office within the Cadet Reserve and Employer Support Division (CRESD). CRESD is a division within the Vice Chief of the Defence Force (VCDF).

The ORSP is responsible for administering the Act, which includes managing employer / Defence Reserve related issues that cannot be resolved individually or with the assistance of the ADF Unit.

ORSP will always try to resolves issues at the lowest possible level.

The ORSP has the authority under the Regulations to investigate complaints made in regard to allegations of discrimination and / or disadvantage that occur as a result of Defence Reserve service or the likelihood that a person will render Defence Reserve service.

ORSP will conduct a formal investigation of alleged breaches of the Act when an informal approach to resolving an issue is unsuccessful. 


Providing assistance and guidance

The ORSP offers Reservists, employers and ADF Units guidance and information on the provisions of the Defence Reserve Service (Protection) Act 2001.

The information that ORSP provides covers the level of protection available to you, and the obligations of your employer when you are rendering Defence Reserve service. It will also cover the responsibilities that you have towards your employer.


Raising issues

Have you any reason to believe that your Defence Reserve service has disadvantaged you in your civilian employment?

If so, try to resolve the issue by talking to your employer about your concerns in first instance.

If your attempt to resolve the issue at your level is unsuccessful, your ADF Unit and the ORSP are able to assist.


Types of issues

Here are some examples of the common issues you might face as a Reservist:

  • An employer refuses to release you in order to render Defence Reserve service.
  • An employer refuses to hire (or offer a partnership to) you because you're a Reservist.
  • An employer forces you to take your annual or long service leave for your Defence Reserve service.
  • An employer refuses to re-employ, or continue to employ you when you return from Defence Reserve service.
  • An educational body removes you from a course because you do Defence Reserve service or have done Defence Reserve service.


Making & handling a complaint

Find out what you need to do when making a complaint and what the Office of Reserve Service Protection (ORSP or the Office) does. 

Note: Although the terms 'employer' and 'employee' are used in this content, read these terms to mean parties to any relationship covered by the Act.

Telephone: 1800 671 998

Contact us form

Address: The Office of Reserve Service Protection, Department of Defence, PO Box 7925, Canberra ACT 2610.


Fax: 02 6127 4650


Resolve the issues yourself

  1. Make a genuine attempt to resolve the issues with your employer yourself, or have your unit assist you.
  2. If you can't resolve the issue informally, make a complaint to the Office.

Genuine attempts to resolve issues include:

  • You discuss the issue with your employer / supervisor.
  • Your unit discusses the issue with your employer / supervisor on your behalf.
  • You and your unit seek help from the ORSP.

We can give your employer information on existing programs and schemes. This may help resolve your issues.

Call 1800 671 998 ... or

Contact your local DRS office

Make a complaint to the Office

If you can't resolve the issues yourself, you can make a complaint to the ORSP by talking or writing to them.

If you make a verbal complaint, the Office will ask you to make the complaint again in writing to avoid potential misunderstandings.

You will need to submit an AD 217, Reserve Service Complaint form.


Dealing with a complaint

Steps to dealing with a complaint

  1. You will need to submit an AD 217, Reserve Service Complaint form (109 KB).
  2. The Director of the Office of Reserve Service Protection (DORSP or the Director) will then review the issue.
  3. If the Director believes you or your unit should further try to resolve the issue, they may refer the issue back to you or your unit. They do this before taking any further action themselves.
  4. After this, the Director decides if the complaint warrants further action.
  5. Should further action be required, the Director notifies the employer of the complaint and sends them the details. At this point a formal investigation commences.
  6. When the Director decides the complaint warrants further action, they'll attempt agreement between you and your employer. They may also consider formal mediation to resolve the issue.

About mediation

  1. The Director will try to facilitate informal resolution of the issue before taking formal action under the Act.
  2. If no further action is warranted, the Director informs you and your employer of the decision.
  3. If you don't agree, you can take your complaint to your Commanding Officer. Failing this, you can take the complaint to the Office of the Defence Ombudsman.

Office of the Defence Ombudsman

Unwarranted complaints:These are complaints the Director considers frivolous, vexatious, not made in good faith or not covered by the Act.

Other options available to DORSP

Should the need arise, the Director may refer a complaint to State, Territory or Federal Police service for further investigation and possible prosecution.

The Director may also support a Reservist taking civil legal action.


Complaints process

Report your issues ASAP

While the Office expects parties to resolve issues informally through mutual agreement, it's recommended that you report issues before they become complaints.

Therefore, you and your Unit should report any issues to the Office as soon as possible.

This lets the Office gauge the number and range of issues and track their progress during the complaint handling process.

Reserve Service Complaint form (109KB)

Making a complaint: the steps

Remember: You may withdraw from the complaint process at any time. Contact the ORSP and follow up with a written notification of your intentions.

It should be noted that the Office has the authority to pursue a case in accordance with the Regulations.

Step 1: Assess the situation and take action

Before you make a complaint to the Office, carefully consider your situation and all the relevant circumstances.

Where possible, try to resolve the situation with your employer before taking any further action.

When resolving the issue yourself is unsuccessful, refer the matter to your local unit commander who can approach your employer on your behalf.

Should these avenues be unsuccessful, you may consider making a formal complaint to the ORSP.

On occasion, the Director of the Office of Reserve Service Protection (DORSP or the Director) may refer an issue back to you with guidance on how to resolve the issue. This is done to ensure that you or your Unit put in the effort to resolve issues.

Step 2:  Lodge a complaint

Fill in the complaint form (AD 217 - Reserve Service Complaint) including the comments from your ADF Unit and send it to the ORSP. The form is available below or on the Defence Restricted Network (DRN) in the webforms.

Reserve Service Complaint form

The Director will assess your complaint before it is considered for investigation.

If you're unsure whether your complaint is appropriate, contact the ORSP to discuss the issue first.

Step 3: Handling your complaint

The Director, Deputy Director or an ORSP member will contact you to discuss your complaint.

The ORSP may need more information about your situation. It's also important to discuss what outcomes you expect from the complaint.

The ORSP will also inform your employer. This is a requirement of the Regulations and will:

  • inform them that you have made a complaint
  • provide them with the details of the complaint
  • discuss the complaint and ask them to respond in writing.

Step 4: Assessing the complaint

The Director may ask you and / or your employer to provide documents relevant to the complaint.

The Regulations gives the office holders of DORSP the power to do this. The ORSP may also interview witnesses if needed.

The Director will notify you that either:

  • There's insufficient evidence to support the complaint. If this is the case, the Director may decide to suspend or terminate the investigation and take no further action.

Should this happen, the Director will write to you and your employer and give reasons for this action. If you disagree with the decision, you may wish to discuss the determination with the Director or refer the matter to the Office of the Defence Ombudsman for a review of the complaint.

Office of the Defence Ombudsman

  • Alternatively, the Director may consider that there is sufficient evidence to support the complaint and progress the complaint further.

Step 5: Refer the complaint to mediation

The Director will always try to help you find a resolution that will resolve your complaint fairly while maintaining a positive and productive relationship with your employer. To achieve this, the Director may use a formal mediation process.

About mediation

Whenever a formal mediation process is used, the Director will ensure that only an accredited mediator will be used to facilitate the mediation. This service will be provided free of charge to the Reservist and the employer. As with all mediations, attendance is voluntary and aims to reach a workable solution to an issue.

The mediator will detail the conference arrangements and discuss these with you and your employer before the mediation.

At the mediation, you and your employer will discuss your issues and the mediator will assist you both to seek solutions. You don't need a lawyer at this stage, however you may choose to seek their involvement.

The mediation outcomes are:

  • You and your employer reach an agreement about your complaint.

The agreement is documented, signed and you and your employer will receive a copy. Once ORSP is informed that an agreement has been established it will close your file, retaining relevant details for record purposes.

Unresolved complaints ? what happens?

Should you and your employer be unable to reach an agreement, the ORSP may:

  • Review the details of the information gathered during the ORSP investigation, including the mediation outcomes and decide to withdraw support for the complaint.
  • Recommend that civil action be pursued.
  • Refer the matter to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecution for further action.
  • Refer the matter to State, Territory or Federal police for further investigation, which may lead to criminal prosecution.

Step 6: Taking formal action

Broadly speaking, formal action includes seeking an outcome by taking:

  • criminal court action
  • and / or civilian court action.

About criminal court action

The Director may refer the matter to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecution (CDDP) to seek formal action. Such action would be warranted when the Director considers that a criminal offence has been committed.

Should the CDDP decide to prosecute an employer, the outcome could result in:

  • Finding the employer has breached the Act and as a result:
    • orders the employer to cease the unlawful action or behaviour
    • and / or penalise the employer with a fine for the unlawful action or behaviour.
  • Finding the employer has not breached the Act and as a result:
    • dismisses the complaint.

About civilian court action

The Director may decide to offer legal or financial assistance to pursue actions under civil law. Such action may be warranted when the Director considers that you may be able to seek damages through the civil courts by way of compensation. Damages may include:

  • your loss of earnings
  • or you have suffered some other form of financial loss as a result of your employer's actions.

Note: Always seek professional legal advice if you're thinking about this option. It's also a good idea to discuss this option with the Director prior to engaging external legal professionals. The Director may decide to offer you legal or financial assistance for private actions under civil law.


Mediation may be the best way to resolve a complaint. Find out about the mediation process.

Under the Act, the Director of the Office of Reserve Service Protection (DORSP or the Director) reviews the issues and decides mediation may help resolve the complaint.


About the mediation process

The mediation process is a meeting where you, your employer and a qualified accredited mediator can have a frank and open discussion about the complaint. You both try to agree on a solution to the complaint.

The mediation meeting is not a public hearing and unless previously arranged, all outcomes agreed to in the mediation are confidential. A mediation session is not a court of law or a tribunal. This means you don't have to prove or disprove the complaint. In most situations, the Director will seek to be privy to the outcomes of the mediation session in order to record when a complaint has been effectively resolved and ensure compliance with the Act.


Role of the mediator

The mediator is neutral and holds a fair and impartial meeting between you and your employer.

They give you and your employer an opportunity to present your points of view to assist with developing a better understanding of where you are both coming from and to help you resolve the complaint.

The mediator's role is also to keep the parties in the conference focused on the issues raised and assist you to resolve the matter.


Other people in the mediation session

The mediator can offer guidance on who should attend the mediation session.

All other people who attend the mediation session do not engage directly in the discussions between you, your employer or the mediator. Quite often they are there simply as support.

You may have a legal representative present; however, in most cases it's not necessary. Likewise, you may also have a support person in the mediation session. But remember, they do not take on an active role.


Format for the conference

  1. Both parties present their views, free from interruptions.
  2. The mediator helps you address the issues you raised and explore ways to resolve the complaint.
  3. The mediator helps you identify key issues. During the discussion stage, it's more productive for you and your employer to talk directly to each other to resolve the complaint.
  4. You and your employer can hold private sessions with the mediator. This is handy when you want assistance to find common ground. It is also good when you identify areas of 'give and take' that will assist with resolving the issues and reaching agreement.


Possible outcomes

Possible outcomes may include:

  • reinstatement of employment or course of studies
  • the release from the workplace to render Defence Reserve service
  • verbal or written apologies (from either or both parties)
  • changes to working conditions
  • a review of working practices and / or policies
  • a review of grievance procedures within the workplace
  • monetary compensation.

When the complaint is resolved, it's usual for you and your employer to sign a formal mediation agreement.

The document outlines the agreement reached in mediation.

You and your employer are not bound by the mediation outcomes until both of you have signed the agreement.


Unresolved complaints

Sometimes complaints can't be resolved by mediation.

In some cases, further inquiry / investigation into the complaint is needed.

At times, the complaint isn't mediated and further inquiry isn't needed. In this case, the Director may refer the matter to the Federal, State or Territory police or refer the matter for criminal prosecution.

If this happens, the Director notifies your employer in writing before taking action.

At other times, the Director may withdraw support for the complaint following the outcomes of the complaint.

About the Act

Find out about the Defence Reserve Service (Protection) Act 2001 (the Act) and what your employer must do under the Act.

For Reservists & Employers

The Act means a Reserve member in the Australian Defence Force, which includes the Navy, Army, and Air Force, can enjoy appropriate levels of protection in their civilian jobs.

Defence Reserve Service (Protection) Act 2001


Employer responsibilities

The Act states, as a minimum, the employer must:

  • not discriminate against an employee because they are, were or are going to be a Reserve member of the ADF
  • not compel or coerce a Reserve member to use annual / long service or any other form of accrued leave to render Defence Reserve service
  • not prevent or hinder, in any way, an employee from rendering Defence Reserve service
  • re-employ a Reservist after they return from Defence Reserve service
  • treat the employee as on leave without pay during Defence Reserve service and protected ADF Continuous Full Time Service (CFTS).

As the Act states, while an employee is absent from the workplace to render Defence Reserve service, an employer is not obliged to:

  • pay civilian employment remuneration
  • grant civilian employment entitlements
  • meet their worker's compensation law obligations to pay premiums, contributions or similar payments
  • meet their obligations under theSuperannuation guarantee (Administration) Act 1992.


Employer Support Payment Scheme payments

Employers may be eligible for the Employer Support Payment Scheme payments when their employees render Defence Reserve service including CFTS. For more information on eligibility and payment rates, refer to the Employer Support Payment Scheme payments.

Employer Support Payment information

Defence Reserve Service (Protection) Act 2001


Review of the Act

A series of public consultation meetings were held in June and July 2007 at various locations across the country. The report has been accepted by the Chief of the Defence Force and the Department of Defence Secretary and the recommendations are going through the consultation process.

Terms of Reference

Media release

Last update: Monday, 5 September 2016