Military spouses face discrimination when applying for jobs

30 January 2019 , 16:07
  • Barclays research shows that four in ten say that having a partner in the military has prevented them from being offered a job interview

  • A fifth of military spouses have hidden their military connection from potential employers

  • A third say that their spouse’s career has meant that they’ve had to leave a job or take reduced hours

Military spouses are hiding their military connections when applying for jobs, a new study from Barclays has revealed.   

The research from the Barclays AFTER (Armed Forces Transition, Employment & Resettlement) programme shows that partners of military personnel face a number of career challenges, with as many as four in ten (39 per cent) believing that they haven’t progressed through a job application because of their partner’s career choice.  A fifth (18 per cent) believe this has happened on multiple occasions.

A significant number of military spouses think there is an underlying bias against hiring military spouses, with four in ten (38 per cent) believing that employers would be put off hiring someone if they knew that their partner was in the military. It does not come as a surprise therefore that a fifth (19 per cent) of spouses have hidden the fact that they are a military partner from a potential employer.

Kevin Gartside, Director of the AFTER programme at Barclays, said: “Our Armed Forces are well known for their dedication and it’s important to remember that, behind the scenes, they’ll often be supported by an equally committed partner. Today’s research reminds us that this commitment can lead to military spouses having to make sacrifices in their own careers or, even worse, being potentially overlooked by employers.”

Career barriers

Two-thirds (66 per cent) of military spouses feel that having a partner in the Armed Forces has negatively impacted their career in some way, with many having to sacrifice their own careers to accommodate their partner’s. A third (33 per cent) report they have had to leave a job or take reduced hours because of it, while 15 per cent have had to take a job below their level of experience.

As well as a perceived bias amongst employers, many military spouses report wider barriers that hold them back when it comes to their career. The majority of military spouses (55 per cent) say their careers do (or did) take second place to their partner’s, while half (50 per cent) think they could have been able to focus more on their career if their partner was not in the Armed Forces.

Supporting military spouses

Perhaps reflective of the nature of military life, half of military spouses (50 per cent) say they’d benefit from a job that allowed flexible working – allowing them to keep working in the same job regardless of where their partners are posted.

In addition to this, 37 per cent say they’d like more support with finding work placements, while 28 per cent say practical advice on writing CVs and attending interviews would help them to achieve their full career potential.

Kevin Gartside adds “With the right support in place, employers of all sizes can help military spouses to find rewarding, challenging careers that suit their lifestyle – whether that’s offering flexible working or supporting them through the job application process. At Barclays, we’re committed to supporting military families and offer targeted support for spouses whose partners are in the Armed Forces, by offering work experience and CV support.”

Helen, a military spouse from Barclays’ office in Glasgow said: “I’ve often hidden my military connection from past employers, as I didn’t want to be seen as asking for special treatment or allowances.

“For me, one of the most challenging aspects of being a military spouse is balancing a young family and a full-time career when, often, my husband’s working schedule has to take priority. In previous jobs, I have felt that not being able to travel or work longer hours has hindered my career.

“It wasn’t until I became enrolled in the Barclays AFTER programme that I felt comfortable talking about my personal circumstances with my employer, however now I feel like I can have a transparent conversation with my colleagues and arrange my work around the needs of my family.”


About the research   

Research was carried out by Opinium on behalf of Barclays AFTER from 23 to 26 November 2018. It polled 206 UK adults whose partners or spouses are currently serving or were in the Armed Forces.

For more press information please contact:

Julia Bush, Cohn & Wolfe


+44 (0) 207 331 5303

About Barclays AFTER

Since its inception in 2010, AFTER has supported over 5,000 service leavers and hired more than 550 ex-military service personnel of all service and ranks into a range of jobs across the company.

In addition to offering support to colleagues who are part of the Reserves, Barclays AFTER programme