Who can access the Ombudsman

Who can make an application?

The Jurisdiction of the Ombudsman is limited to current and former Service personnel who:

  • have an open Service complaint or Service matter that they believe is subject to undue delay
  • want to make a Service complaint
  • want to challenge a decision made by the Service that their Service complaint was not admissible
  • have made a Service they believe was not handled correctly. The complaint must have been finally determined on or after 1 January 2016.
  • have made a Service complaint that they believe the Ombudsman should reinvestigate. The complaint must have been finally determined on or after 1 January 2016.

A Service complaint that has been finally determined on or before 31 December 2015 falls outside the jurisdiction of the Ombudsman. These complaints can’t be reopened

If the incident you want to make a Service complaint about happened before 1 January 2008 and your complaint was not submitted before 31 December 2015, the Ombudsman has no legal power to look at the matter.

This is because a Service person can only make a Service complaint if the matter they are complaining about occurred when they were subject to Service law.  Service law commenced on 1 January 2008. Prior to this, Service personnel were subject to the laws of their individual Services (Army Act 1955, Navy Discipline Act 1957 and the Air Force Act 1955.)  For incidents that occurred before 1 January 2008, personnel had until the 31 December 2015 to make a complaint and it is not possible to make a Service complaint now.  It may be possible to raise your historical complaint in another way.


Only the person who made a Service complaint can ask the Ombudsman for an investigation or review.

This means that a respondent in a Service complaint can’t ask the Ombudsman to investigate the complaint they are named in.

Respondents can contact our office:

  • for information on the Service complaints process
  • to find out how to make a Service complaint of their own
  • to provide feedback to the Ombudsman

Each Service has a responsibility to ensure that the Service complaints system is efficient, effective and fair to both complainants and respondents. If you have been named in a Service complaint and need guidance or support. You can speak to your Assisting Officer or contact your unit welfare officer who will be able to signpost you to agencies that offer help.

MOD Civil Servants

The Ombudsman cannot investigate complaints made by MOD Civil Servants. The Ombudsman only has jurisdiction over the Service Complaints system. The Service Complaints system is the internal workplace grievance system for members of the UK Armed Forces.

Everyone has the right to be treated fairly and with respect. If you believe you have experienced unacceptable behaviour you are encouraged to seek support and report the matter.

Advice and Support

There are many options available to get support and advice.

  • Speak to your manager or local D&I Adviser or Practitioner
  • Contact DBS Casework Services on 0800 345 7772 Option 4.
  • Contact the anonymous Whole Force Bullying, Harassment, and Discrimination Helpline on 0800 783 0334.
  • Contact the Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) on 0800 345 7047.

Report the matter

You can try to resolve the matter informally. There are five ways to do this. You can:

  1. speak to the Respondent(s) directly;
  2. write to the Respondent(s);
  3. ask your Chain of Command / Manager to intervene;
  4. ask a colleague or Trade Union representative to intervene; or
  5. requesting mediation

Please note that an informal complaint does not prevent an individual from making the complaint formal. You have the right to make a formal complaint at any point, regardless of whether attempts were made to resolve the matter informally.

For future guidance read JSP763: The MOD Behaviours and Informal Complaints Resolution Policy

Information on formal complaints can be found in the MOD civilian formal bullying, harassment and discrimination complaints policy and procedures.

Third Parties

Third parties can contact our office for information or to raise concerns. But the Ombudsman can’t:

  • refer a complaint made by a third party
  • review the handling of a complaint made by a third party
  • investigate an issue raised by a third party

This is because Service complaints can only be made by the individual Service person.

When we are contacted by third parties we provide clear information on the role of the Ombudsman. We can also provide information about how an individual can make a complaint in their own right if we know.