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Section 5 - Agreements on time off

To take account of the wide variety of circumstances and problems which can arise, there can be positive advantages for employers and trade unions in establishing agreements on time off in ways that reflect their own situations. It should be borne in mind, however, that the absence of a formal agreement on time off does not in itself deny an individual any statutory entitlement. Nor does any agreement supersede statutory entitlement to time off.

56. A formal agreement can help to:

  • provide clear guidelines against which applications for time off can 
    be determined
  • establish realistic expectations on the part of union representatives 
    and managers
  • avoid misunderstanding
  • facilitate better planning
  • ensure fair and reasonable treatment.

57. Agreements should specify:

  • the amount of time off permitted recognising that this will vary 
    according the fluctuations in demand on the union representatives' role
  • the occasions on which time off can be taken including meetings 
    with management, meetings with other union representatives, time needed to prepare for meetings, communicating with members and their trade union, time to undertake e-learning if appropriate and to attend approved training events
  • in what circumstances time off will be paid
  • arrangements for taking time off at short notice
  • how pay is to be calculated
  • to whom time off will be paid
  • the facilities and equipment to be provided and limits to their use, if any
  • arrangements for ensuring confidentiality of communications 
    involving union representatives. These should include agreed rules on the use of data and the exceptional cases where monitoring may be necessary, for example in cases of suspected illegal use, specifying the circumstances where such monitoring may be undertaken and the means by which it is to be done, for example by company IT or security personnel
  • the role of line managers in granting permission to legitimate 
    requests for time off and, where appropriate and practical, ensuring that adequate cover or work load reductions are provided
  • the procedure for requesting time off
  • the procedure for resolving grievances about time off.

58. In addition, it would be sensible for agreements to make clear:

  • arrangements for the appropriate payment to be made when time 
    off relates in part to union duties and in part to union activities
  • how and in what circumstances payment might be made to shift 
    and part time employees undertaking trade union duties outside their normal working hours.

59. Agreements for time off and other facilities for union representation should be consistent with wider agreements which deal with such matters as constituencies, number of representatives and the election of officials.

60. The operation of time off agreements or arrangements should be jointly reviewed by the parties from time to time.

61. In smaller organisations, it might be thought more appropriate for employers and unions to reach understandings about how requests for time off are to be made; and more broadly to agree flexible arrangements which can accommodate their particular circumstances.

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