Even as the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts continue, many Military, Reservists and National Guard are returning home to family life and jobs. The job market is proving tough for many, but for those who do find jobs, this transition to normal life can be joyful and challenging at the same time. As a manager or HR professional, there are issues to be aware of and things you can do to help the transition. Most military personnel left behind relationships, families and jobs when they were deployed. Many things have changed while they were gone and coming back into the work environment can be a culture shock for the vet.

What is the Law
Understanding the law governing their return may be helps ease the transition. Military personnel are protected by the federal Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act (USERRA) that applies to all employers regardless of their size, and protect those in the reserve forces of the Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, National Guard, and Public Health Service Commissioned Corp. It’s worth checking the regulations when an employee leaves for service so you can be prepared for their return.

Tips for Employers
If you are a supervisor or employer of an individual returning from active duty, here are some tips you can use to ease his or her transition back into the workplace.

  • Create a welcoming environment: Prior to the employee’s return, meet with his or her colleagues to discuss any concerns they have about the impact on their responsibilities, as well as to promote the importance of being supportive as their colleague readjusts. If appropriate, consider organizing a welcoming event, such as a breakfast or cake break.
  • Update the employee: As soon as possible, meet with the employee to update him or her about the status of the workload, policy and personnel changes, and any other changes that occurred during the absence.
  • Give the employee time to readjust: Be aware that some people may need a little time to get back into the swing of their former routine. Encourage them to ask for the guidance or support they need.
  • Support the employee if transition proves difficult: If an employee is having significant trouble readjusting to the workplace, you can note and discuss changes and expectations in work performance, as well as listen to the employee’s response and concerns. If you think there are personal issues, including anxiety or depression, related to the transition back to work, do not diagnose a suspected mental health problem–refer. Suggest that the employee seek consultation from your organization’s EAP. Reminding the employee of available benefits provided by your organization at this time can be helpful as well.

Returning military may feel that no one except another vet can help so it’s important to have local numbers for Veterans Outreach Programs which are located across the country. Help the employee understand that everyone needs help from time to time in dealing with the stresses of life. It is best to act on these problems as early as possible. He she may have many options to choose from: support groups, anger management classes, a service chaplain, or a mental health professional. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness.

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