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War Economy

Reinstatement of Employees

Reinstatement of Employees

Those servicemen who wished to return to their former employment were protected by the Occupational Re-Establishment Emergency Regulations 1940, which required a serviceman's former employer to reinstate him with wages and other conditions not less favourable than he would have enjoyed had he remained at his job.

The Government's policy was that nobody should lose civilian status because of his service with the forces and, where necessary, the regulations were interpreted accordingly.3

Actually, very little use had to be made of these regulations, and there were fewer than 200 cases of alleged breaches between the years 1940 and 1948. In nearly every one of these cases, discussion or a warning was sufficient to induce the employer to comply. The acute shortage of labour, which built up during the war years and continued into the post-war period, no doubt accounted for the exceptionally small number of cases in which the regulations had to be enforced.

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Special problems arose with regard to apprenticeship, and separate legislation provided for the suspension of contracts and for their revival when military service was completed.1 Provision was also made for credit to be allowed in apprenticeship time for work of a like nature performed in the services. An apprentice, on reviving his contract, was to receive at least the apprenticeship rate of wages he would then have been receiving had his employment been continuous.

In spite of this protection, many apprentices, when they returned to work after military service, found that their wages under the existing contracts were too low. They were now older than an apprentice would normally be, and military pay and privileges had altered their standard of living. General dissatisfaction with apprenticeship wages encouraged those who returned to take up unskilled work, which was readily available and returned higher rewards. The only solution was to pay journeymen's rates, in order to avoid the loss of potentially skilled men and wastage of earlier apprenticeship training.

All parties were agreed that apprentices should not suffer financially as a result of war service, but employers considered that, as the apprentice would be receiving a higher wage than his economic worth, a proportion, if not all of the loading, should be a charge on the community. Eventually an arrangement was reached whereby in most cases the employer undertook to pay one-third of the difference between the maximum apprenticeship rate and the journeyman's rate, while the Rehabilitation Board undertook to pay the remaining two-thirds.

While employers had extra responsibilities at the end of the war, with regard to the reinstatement of men who had joined the forces, they were rapidly being freed from other restrictions.

3 In giving a ruling on a particular case, in 1942, the Secretary of Labour said: ‘It is not a question of reinstatement in the identical position held at the time of mobilization, but of reinstatement in an occupation and under conditions not less favourable to the worker than those which would have been applicable to him had his employment been continuous.’

1 Suspension of Apprenticeship Emergency Regulations 1939 provided that if apprentices were away on military service and returned within a period of six months, the period of absence should be regarded as time served under the apprenticeship contract. The Suspension of Apprenticeship Emergency Regulations 1944 revoked the previous suspension orders, and made provision for apprenticeships which were deemed to be suspended as a result of military service to be revived within a period of six months of the termination of such service. Where a contract of apprenticeship was revived in accordance with these regulations, the term of the contract was to continue for the unexpired period as at the date of suspension, or for three years, whichever was the lesser period. The apprentice could, however, be credited with any period of his military service during which he performed trade work of the same class, or of a class related to that to which he was apprenticed.