Simulated image of a homeless veteran.

SSAFA Statistical Survey of UK Public Attitudes Towards Ex Service Personnel

DefenceSynergia (DS) is grateful to The Soldiers’, Sailors’ and Airmen’s Families Association (SSAFA) for permission to reproduce their worrying findings when they recently polled civil recruiters and members of the public on the subject of retired British Armed Forces personnel. The DS perception, which follows on from our view that the Ministry of Defence (MOD) does not communicate with the general public too well, is that something is going very terribly wrong if recruiters and workers in the general population are now associating ex-servicemen with mental health issues. It is encouraging that SSAFA is tackling these identified misconceptions head-on with their ‘Friendly to Forces’ campaign. We sincerely hope that the Secretary of State for defence, The Right Honourable Ben Wallace MP, will instruct his new Veterans Minister, The Honourable Johnny Mercer MP, to investigate and report on the implications of these disturbing findings.   


SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity reveals that mental health stigma is still a deterrent to hiring service leavers in the UK workforce

  1. Nearly a half (46%) of recruiters would worry about hiring a service leaver in case they had mental health issues
  2. 31% of recruiters would feel reluctant to hire someone who had previously served in the Armed Forces
  3. Under half (48%) of UK workers said they would feel comfortable working with a service leaver
  4. 1 in 12 (8%) UK workers associate service leavers as being aggressive while 1 in 16 (6%) said short-tempered

Therefore, SSAFA launches Friendly to Forces Campaign to encourage UK workforces to hire ex-servicemen and women

SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity has revealed that British ex-service personnel struggle to find work due to mental health stigma. Almost a half (46%) of UK recruiters worry about hiring a service leaver in case they had mental health issues.

Despite best efforts from British companies and individuals, including Prince William and Prince Harry, negative perceptions about mental health remain a significant barrier in the recruitment process, with service leavers being stigmatised. The survey found that 31% of recruiters feel reluctant to hire someone who had previously served.

To combat this, SSAFA is calling for more UK companies to challenge their perceptions about hiring service leavers, as their new research reveals concerning misconceptions over the benefits of hiring ex-servicemen or women.

To challenge a lack of understanding amongst businesses and to help servicemen and women transition from the military into civilian life, SSAFA has launched a new campaign called Friendly to Forces. This initiative will encourage companies from all over the UK sign up and show their support and willingness to hire Forces leavers. Mentees from SSAFA’s own mentoring programme will be directed to apply for roles at SSAFA’s Friendly to Forces employers.

Despite the countless skills that come with hiring a veteran, alarmingly under half (48%) of UK workers said they would feel comfortable working alongside a service leaver. More male workers (50%) said they would feel comfortable working alongside a service leader than female workers (45%). Over 1 in 10 (13%) workers aged 16-24 associate aggression with service leavers.

31% of UK recruiters said they would feel reluctant to hire someone who has previously served in the Armed Forces. Interestingly more male recruiters (35%) would feel reluctant to hire a Forces leaver than their female counterparts (28%).

The research conducted for SSAFA also revealed that mental health is still not being adequately understood by employers- with nearly half of UK recruiters surveyed (46%) saying they would worry about hiring a service leaver in case they have mental health problems.

The divide in understanding veterans in the workplace is profound. As on the other side of opinion, 43% say they would feel proud to work alongside a service leaver. In fact, workers cited being a team player (57%), driven (43%), a problem solver (42%), resilient (41%), quick thinking (40%) as qualities they associate with service leavers.

Amanda Fisher, Managing Director Facilities Management Defence and Justice at Amey says: “We’ve been recruiting Forces leavers for over 15 years and will always continue to value the dedication and enthusiasm that comes with this background. They bring many qualities to our business including a ‘can do’ attitude and transferable skills that make for a successful team dynamic”.

James Grant, Head of Corporate Fundraising and Events, says: “One of the many selling points of joining the Armed Forces is learning skills that can be easily transferred into civilian life. Sadly, some businesses still don’t recognise these skills and service leavers are being discriminated against. We see that there’s also a false perception over Armed Forces personnel suffering from mental health issues. Mental health is a common condition affecting 1 in 4 people every year – service leaver or not.”

A career in service to our country should always be met with pride and gratitude. That’s why we have launched our Friendly to Forces campaign, to challenge all businesses to do better when hiring service leavers.”

The campaign will underpin SSAFA’s own pledge to the Armed Forces Covenant to show advocacy on behalf of the Armed Forces community. The Friendly to Forces campaign will complement the existing work of Defence Relationship Management (DRM) which includes the Employer Recognition Scheme Awards, and also the Career Transition Partnership (CTP).

If you would like to sign your business up to support equal recruitment opportunities for UK’s service leavers go to