January 29th 2024

A beginner’s guide to the Defence Employer Recognition Scheme

Representative from Toyota attend a live firing exercise with 210 Battery, 103 Regiment Royal Artillery

A straight-talking guide answering some of the most popular questions about the Ministry of Defence’s Employer Recognition Scheme.

What is the purpose of the Defence Employer Recognition Scheme?

Commonly abbreviated to ERS, the Defence Employer Recognition Scheme serves to recognise and reward employers for their support to Reservists, Service Leavers and Spouses, Cadets and Cadet Volunteers.

The scheme is the Ministry of Defence’s highest badge of honour for Armed Forces-friendly organisations.

Underpinning it all is the Armed Forces Covenant. Like ERS, the Covenant is free to participate in with all pledges tailored to your organisation. The overarching notion is that no member of the Defence community should be disadvantaged in their civilian employment.

What is the difference between a Bronze, Silver and Gold Award?

There are three tiers to the scheme:

  • Bronze Awards are presented to employers who state their intent to support Defence personnel.
  • Silver Awards are presented to those who then demonstrate their support, with winners celebrated at a prestigious awards ceremony. The process encourages you to consider, challenge and adapt HR policies and practises that help you to gain, retain and maximise the skills of Defence people with your company.
  • Gold Awards are saved for the most extraordinary Armed Forces supporters who build on the above to become advocates for the support of Defence personnel. As a thank you, winners are honoured at an extra special celebration.
Staff of ERS companies enjoy a leadership day at Chetwynd Barracks.

Members of staff of ERS companies enjoy a leadership day at Chetwynd Barracks.

How does the Defence Employer Recognition Scheme differ from the Armed Forces Covenant?

Signing the Armed Forces Covenant is a key step towards achieving the scheme’s Bronze Award.

In addition to promising to ensure those who serve or have served in the Armed Forces, and their families, are treated fairly, Bronze applicants must promote their Armed Forces-friendly credentials and the fact they are open to employing Reservists, Service Leavers, Cadets, Cadet Volunteers and Military Spouses.

How will gaining an Employer Recognition Scheme Award benefit my business?

The steps you take to support Reservists, Service Leavers and Spouses, and Cadet Volunteers as part of your application will help you to attract and retain good people.

Proudly displaying your instantly-recognisable award will catch the eye of job-seeking Defence personnel while encouraging existing staff members to consider the life and skills-expanding opportunities of the Reserve Forces and Cadets, which all add value to your workplace.

Those who gain an Employer Recognition Scheme Award should proudly display the logo on their website and, crucially, on job advertisements.

But don’t just take our word for it. Listen to what previous Gold Award winners have had to say.

A Reservist chats with representatives from Employer Recognition Award holders Fred Sherwood Group and Pall-Ex

A Reservist chats with representatives from Employer Recognition Award holders Fred Sherwood Group and Pall-Ex

Why are Reservists so valuable to businesses?

Through their core training Reserves develop leadership, communication and teamwork skills which make them so reliable. They are pressure tested in deliberately challenging conditions that cannot be replicated in the civilian workplace and, as a result, are resilient, resourceful and ready for whatever comes their way.

They often return from training better leaders, better able to be lead, better qualified or perhaps better prepared for promotion.

Reserves are also often called upon for their specialist skills, either those built upon from the civilian sector or developed from scratch through service. This includes driving, health and safety, cyber, engineering, catering and language skills as well as HGV licences and nationally recognised qualifications.

These are transferable traits and skills that we know businesses are searching for, and all of which come without direct cost to an employer. We estimate Reservists receive training which would cost an organisation some £10,000 – £18,000 to replicate across their time with the Ministry of Defence.

What happens if my nomination is successful?

If you have been successful in applying for the Bronze Award, you will receive a certificate and ERS logos to display on your website.

Winners of Silver or Gold Awards will also receive a promotional toolkit to celebrate their award win and be invited to a special ceremony to collect their award.

The names of all winners will also feature proudly on the Government website.


Which companies have previously been recognised in the Employer Recognition Scheme here in the East Midlands?

From big household names such as Boots and Toyota to family-owned firms like Fred Sherwood Group, thousands of Forces-friendly organisations from across the country have been recognised for supporting Defence.

Head over to the Government’s website for a full list of all award recipients.

 How do I apply for an Employer Recognition Scheme Award?

First of all, it is great to hear your enthusiasm and desire to show your support for Defence. The application process differs for each award:

 Do you have a question that’s gone unanswered? If you work within the East Midlands, please contact our Regional Employer Engagement Director via