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Section 3 - Time off for trade union activities

To operate effectively and democratically, trade unions need the active participation of members. It can also be very much in employers' interests that such participation is assured and help is given to promote effective communication between union representatives and members in the workplace.


36. An employee who is a member of an independent trade union recognised by the employer in respect of that description of employee is to be permitted reasonable time off during working hours to take part in any trade union activity. An employee who is a member of an independent and recognised trade union is also permitted to take reasonable time off during working hours for the purposes of accessing the services of a Union Learning Representative (provided those services are services for which the Union Learning Representative is entitled to time off).

What are examples of trade union activities?

37.  The activities of a trade union member can be, for example:

  • attending workplace meetings to discuss and vote on the outcome 
    of negotiations with the employer. Where relevant, and with the employer's agreement, this can include attending such workplace meetings at the employer's neighbouring locations
  • meeting full time officers to discuss issues relevant to the workplace
  • voting in union elections
  • having access to services provided by a Union Learning representative.

38. Where the member is acting as a representative of a recognised union, activities can be, for example, taking part in:

  • branch, area or regional meetings of the union where the business 
    of the union is under discussion
  • meetings of official policy making bodies such as the executive 
    committee or annual conference
  • meetings with full time officers to discuss issues relevant to the workplace.

39. There is no right to time off for trade union activities which themselves consist of industrial action.

Payment for time off for trade union activities

40. Paragraphs 18 and 19 set out the statutory entitlement to payment for time off to undertake trade union duties.

41. There is no statutory requirement that union members or representatives be paid for time off taken on trade union activities. Nevertheless employers may want to consider payment in certain circumstances, for example to ensure that workplace meetings are fully representative or to ensure that employees have access to services provided by Union Learning Representatives.

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