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It is important for managers to have positive working relationships with employees, based on good communications. It is at this basic level that many issues are raised and resolved informally, without the need to invoke formal procedures. Employee representatives provide an additional channel for employees to communicate with managers, and vice versa.

Involving employee representatives can encourage understand, better decision making and improve employment relations, representatives involved in the policies and decisions of organisations can:

  • help to develop trust and cooperation
  • improve business performance
  • encourage the workforce to identify more closely with the organisation's performance
  • improve the quality of decisions by providing input from workers with the relevant knowledge and skills
  • satisfy legal requirements
  • help understanding and management of change
  • help to develop workplace partnerships.

An employee who is an official of an independent trade union which is recognised by an employer, must be allowed reasonable time off with pay during working hours to:

  • carry out union duties
  • consult with the employer, or receive information from the employer, about mass redundancies or business transfers
  • undergo training for union duties (as approved by the union or by the Trades Union Congress).

An employee who is a member of such a trade union is also entitled to reasonable time off for certain trade union activities - for example, attending a union conference. You are not obliged to pay the employee for time off for these activities

Employees who act as representatives for consultation about redundancies or business transfers, or are candidates to be representatives of this kind, are entitled to reasonable time off with pay during working hours to perform certain functions and to receive appropriate training which include:

  • representatives of employee safety
  • information and consultation representatives
  • European consultative bodies
  • pension representatives
  • TUPE representatives
  • collective redundancy representatives.

Questions and answers

Do union learning representatives have a right to time off?

Yes. Union learning representatives are entitled to reasonable paid time off for training, for carrying out their duties; and protection against detriment. Union members are entitled to unpaid time off to consult their learning representative, as long as they belong to a
bargaining unit for which the union is recognised. A bargaining unit is a group of employees representing a union or association for purposes of collective bargaining, in issues such as term and conditions of employment. These rights are limited to independent unions in organisations where they are recognised for collective bargaining purposes.

What rights do safety representatives have to time off?

Employees who are one of the following are entitled to time off with pay to carry out their functions and to undergo training:

  • Safety representatives appointed under the Safety Representatives and Safety Committee Regulations 1977 by a trade union recognised by their employer
  • Representatives of employee safety elected under the Health and Safety (Consultation with Employees) Regulations 1996, to represent employees not covered by the 1977 Regulations
  • Safety representatives elected under the Offshore Installations (Safety Representatives and Safety Committee) Regulations 1989.

For further information see Health and Safety Executive - Consulting employees on health and safety: A guide to the law [PDF, 203kb].

Representation in the workplace - Acas business solutions

We can visit your organisation to help you understand what needs to be done to address a range of issues related to representation and help you and your employee representatives with developing negotiation skills. Find out more by visiting Representation at work: how Acas can help.

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