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I'm over 18 - could I leave the army if I didn't like it? Print E-mail

Already in the army?  Go to Leaving the army.

Been in the army before?  If so, the rules are different for you - see 'I've been in the army before and am thinking of rejoining'.


The rules for leaving the army are complicated and legally binding - it's important you know about this so please read on.

During the first 28 days of paid duty

If you joined the army you couldn't leave during the first 28 days of paid duty; this is measured from your first day of work (rather than the date you enlisted) and any days' leave you take during this time will be added on to the 28 days.

After the first 28 days of paid duty and before three months from the date of enlistment

After the first 28 days of paid duty and before three months had passed from the date of your enlistment, you can leave by giving 14 days' notice in writing to your Commanding Officer. You wouldn't have to explain your decision.  This is called 'Discharge as of Right' (DAOR) and if you left in this way you would be a civilian again and wouldn't have to serve in the Reserve.

After the first three months from the date of enlistment

The three month deadline for DAOR is absolute.  Once it has passed, adult recruits have no legal right to leave Regular Service until four years have passed since enlistment. In order to leave then you would have to give 12 months' notice (so, for example, if you wanted to leave after four years, you would have to give notice after three years).  The army can reduce your notice period by up to six months but this is at their discretion and is not a right - this change has to be decided within the first month of your notice period.

If you received extra training or education or another benefit from the army while serving, you might have to sign a form to extend your minimum term of Regular Service beyond four years from the date you enlisted.  The extension of the minimum term of Regular Service can be as much as six years in addition to the first four, although it is usually less - the extension is stated on the form.

Once you left Regular Service, you would be transferred to Reserve Service for six years or until you were 40, whichever came first.  This means that although you would have returned to civilian life after Regular Service, you could still be called out to serve on active duty or to train at any time.

Exceptions to all the above

If there were a time of 'imminent national danger', for example if the country were attacked, you may not be allowed to leave the army for the duration, whatever your circumstances.

If you tried to leave without the right to do so, you would be deemed Absent Without Leave (AWOL). This is an offence under military law and can be punished with a long prison term in some cases - it would also delay your legal right to leave Regular Service.

If you are thinking of joining the army, ask your recruiter to tell you in detail about the rules for leaving - it is very important that you know exactly what you would be signing up for.

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Last Updated on Wednesday, 12 February 2014 14:05

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