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28 July 2003

New guide to time off for trade union duties
What's the biggest reason employers give for refusing requests for time off for trade union duties - and is it lawful? Can your employer persistently use the reality of staff shortages to decline requests for time off? And what sort of special arrangements to time off for union duties should you consider negotiating for shift workers?

You can find out from LRD's latest trade union guide Time off for trade union duties and activities - a guide for workplace and learning reps. It covers everything you need to know on the law relating to time off, as well as providing examples of negotiated agreements.

Fully updated, it includes a section on the new rights for union learning reps who are now entitled to paid time off for their duties. And the booklet uses a new ACAS code of practice, issued in April 2003, to explain how your rights should be exercised.

It also draws on a unique new survey on time off - one of the many carried out each year by the LRD on a variety of topics on trade union concerns - using LRD's extensive database of UK reps and negotiators.

The survey was conducted earlier this year and is based on responses from reps in 157 workplaces covering over half a million workers. This means Time off for trade union duties and activities is able to provide examples of good practice in negotiated agreements.

Among the survey's main findings are that:
  • nearly one in five (17%) said their agreement on time off had changed since the last LRD survey on the subject in 1999. And more than half of these said the impetus behind change had been the union - leading to better agreements with more time off;
  • the most likely arrangement for time off, cited by 84%, was for attending meetings, either with management or individual members;
  • the single largest reason given by employers for turning down requests for time of was "pressures of work", according to 67% of workplaces where there had been time off problems;
  • over half (53%) of workplaces had an agreement setting out special time off arrangements for shift workers;
  • employers were least likely to allow time off for acting as a companion to workers in other workplaces - for example where the union is trying to recruit or reach a recognition deal with a new employer. Just 18% had agreements covering this;
  • where the union was recognised, 78% of employers provided for time off for initial training for new reps shortly after their appointment; and
  • nearly all the reps in recognised workplaces (90%) had at least access to a meeting room, telephone and noticeboard to help them carry out their union duties.
Time off for trade union duties and activities refers extensively to case law throughout, explaining who's entitled to time off and under what circumstances.

And it covers the differences between trade union duties that are paid, and trade union activities for which there's no right to payment, even though there may be a right to time off.

The booklet also provides essential information on:
  • safety reps' rights and the rights of members of European Works Councils;
  • the rights of employee reps in workplaces without recognition;
  • the circumstances when employers might reasonably turn down requests for time off and the right to be paid; and
  • the right not to be victimised for exercising time off rights.
Published in handy A5 format, the price for a single copy of the 56-page booklet is ?4.25 (?10.50 for employers or commercial organisations), though there are considerable savings on orders for multiple copies.

Time off for trade union duties and activities is available from the Labour Research Department (LRD), 78 Blackfriars Road, London SE1 8HF. LRD Booklets are also available on annual subscription for ?29.50 (?73.95 for employers/commercial organisations). LRD publishes between 10 and 11 booklets each year on a range of topics of interest to trade unionists.

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