Trade union facility time

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The council is committed to promoting and developing good employee relations and ensuring the effectiveness of relationships between the council and the recognised trade union.

We recognise that the general purpose of granting time off for trade union duties and activities is to promote and develop good employee relations and health and safety practice within the council.


To provide a protocol and procedure covering trade union duties, activities and facilities in accordance with good practice and the legislative framework.


The council and Unison accept the principles contained in the ACAS code of Practice on Time Off for Trade Union activities.

The amount and frequency of time off should be reasonable in all circumstances and take account of:

  • the operational needs of the service ,(in particular the need to maintain a service to the public and safety and security at all times), and the need to make arrangements to cover time off
  • the need for recognised Unison officers to communicate and effectively represent their members, (and all staff for collective issues when carrying out duties in relation to Joint Staff and Health and Safety Committee representation)

Time off will normally be agreed and will not be unreasonably refused, the need for the official to carry out union duties will be balanced against the needs of the council as employer. Each request for time off will be considered on its merits and take account of requests in relation to agreed time off already taken or in prospect.

There is no right to time off for trade union activities which in themselves consist of industrial action. This in no way affects the workers rights to take industrial action.

This protocol is not intended by either the council or Unison to be part of any contract of employment or to vary or amend any related statutory rights and responsibilities. As this is a voluntary code of conduct neither will the council seek to enforce its requirements through the disciplinary or capability or performance management frameworks. Any alleged breach of the code should be brought to the attention of the Unison branch executive committee and Head of HR.

Notification of recognised trade union officers

Unison will notify the Head of HR, in writing of all the elected representatives, stating name, and role. Any changes will be notified in writing immediately.

An official is an employee who has been elected or appointed in accordance with the rules of the union recognised by the council to be representative of all or some of its members. A 'member' is any employee of the council who is a member of the recognised union.

What activities qualify for time off?

Trade union duties, the most frequent concerning:

  • attending joint consultation meetings (including pre-meetings)
  • terms and conditions of employment
  • engagement or termination arrangements
  • allocation of work or duties between workers (eg job evaluation, flexible working practices)
  • union membership eg. Induction of new starters
  • machinery for consultation and communication
  • representing members at disciplinary or grievance proceedings (including preparation for such meetings).
  • branch officers may also take reasonable time to undergo training relevant to carrying out their trade union duties provided that the training is approved by the union.

Taking part in activities within the union itself such as:

  • attending as an elected member of branch committees, district or national committees or annual conference.
  • meetings with full time officials to discuss issues relevant to the workplace
  • maintaining union membership

The law provides for both paid (union duties) and unpaid time off (union activities) but the council's practice is that normally time off taken by officials will be paid.

Time off with pay equates to the amount of pay that would have been earned if the employee had worked in the usual way at their own job. Payment is not applicable where the duty or activity is carried out at a time when the official would not otherwise have been at work. (Unless the official is attending an evening meeting at the employers request).

Who can take time off for these purposes?

Unison representatives, as defined in the ACAS code of practice and confirmed by the union to the Head of HR as branch officers. Officials certified by Unison as being capable of acting as a workers companion can take reasonable amount of paid time off to accompany a Wycombe District Council employee. Additionally any member of staff can take paid time off to accompany a colleague at disciplinary or grievance meetings.

Time off to cover related workplaces

Any extension of time off for representational rights to cover employees outside the council will be subject to prior agreement by the Head of HR on a case by case basis.

Time off does not normally apply to ordinary members of the union unless by management request they have been co-opted onto joint working parties or they are fulfilling the role of a workplace colleague in disciplinary or grievance matters.

How much time can be taken?

The amount and frequency of time off should be reasonable in all the circumstances.

In practice officials carrying out union duties may not always have a great deal of flexibility over the time taken by joint meetings, grievance processes and other employee relations processes and the council does not impose a mandatory limit on the total time spent on these matters.

Indicative time for branch officers is likely to be about one hour a week, joint staff representatives about three hours a week. To take account of the additional responsibilities of the branch Secretary, Health and the Safety Representative indicative time is likely to be about three hours a week plus time to attend meetings at the request of management. The Head of HR will write to heads of service confirming the name of the official, role and indicative time requirements to allow for appropriate and flexible adjustments to work . These time requirements may increase during periods of significant reorganisation. In exceptional, and mutually agreed, circumstances where an official's duties are likely to be significantly increased over a prolonged period it may be necessary to put in place further arrangements including re-arranging work to a different time, work cover or work load reductions. In these circumstances the Head of HR, will consult with the head of service to determine what adjustments are necessary.

The council supports the need for newly appointed trade union officials to be granted reasonable time off for training in representational skills and related training where the official has special responsibilities (for example health and safety, learning representatives). Where an official requests to attend a union conference as an authorised delegate up to five days leave with pay may be granted in any one year.

The council and union undertake to work together in line with the following good practice guidance to maintain a reasonable and constructive approach to time off that allows services to be maintained.

Good practice:

managers will agree working arrangements and communication channels within the service to ensure that adequate notice may be given and times agreed whenever practicable

representatives will co-operate with their line managers in identifying the amount of time off they need, providing as much notice as possible and giving the broad reason and taking account of confidentiality

senior branch officers will monitor time spent on union duties and activities in order to share paid time off appropriately. and to inform discussions with the Head of HR and/or head of service regarding current and predicted requirements

while recognising the importance of granting time off managers have a responsibility to ensure adequate cover can be arranged for safety reasons and to ensure the provision of service. To facilitate cover arrangements, workplace meetings requested by a union official, should where possible be held towards the end of core time, before or after lunch and for larger meetings outside core hours.

where operational difficulties arise managers will liaise with HR and the official concerned in order to rectify any difficulty as soon as possible. Managers may also choose to liaise with the branch secretary to try to resolve the issue informally

Requesting time off

A union representative will make a request for time off to their service manager providing as much notice as possible and giving details of the broad purpose, location timing and estimated duration. Wherever possible representatives will give written notification and as much notice as possible of their request for time off. Planned time off for training, conferences etc, should be made in writing to the Head of HR as soon as the dates are available. Representatives and managers should try to agree when and how time off can be most easily accommodated having regard to all issues.