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Union facility time regulations

Updated: Feb 16

Since April 1st, new regulations have been in place that govern the reporting of time taken by employees who are trade union officials.

The Trade Union (Facility Time Publication Requirements) Regulations 2017 implement section 13 of the Trade Union Act 2016.

The regulations require that certain employers in the public sector publish details on the total cost of what is known as ‘paid facility time’ taken by employees who are union officials. Organisations that are affected by the requirement will be obliged to report figures and percentages for the twelve-month period running from 1st April to 31st March.

Who is affected?

The requirements will only affect relevant public sector employers including:

  • Fire and rescue authorities,

  • Transport for London,

  • National Park Authorities,

  • National Health Service Foundation Trusts,

  • Governing bodies of foundation schools,

  • Voluntary aided schools or foundation special schools,

  • Academy schools,

  • Institutions in the further education sector including universities,

  • Police and Crime Commissioners,

  • Chief officers of police forces in England or Wales.

  • The British Transport Police Authority

  • and numerous other public sector organisations, including the Care Quality Commission, the Children’s Commissioner, the Commission for Equality and Human Rights, the Disclosure and Barring Service, the Environment Agency, the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority, the Health and Safety Executive, the Independent Police Complaints Commission, the Information Commissioner and Natural England.

For a full list, follow this link:

Even if an organisation falls into the categories outlined above, it will still need to employ fifty people or more in order to be included.

What is facility time?

Facility time is the time that an individual union representative takes off from his/her job in order to carry out their trade union role. This can range from a few hours a month to full secondment from his/her regular job to carry out trade union tasks full time and covers such activities as trade union duties, accompanying employees to hearings or receiving training under the Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations.

What is required?

It is worth bearing in mind that the regulations require quite a complexity of information which will include the following:

  • How many employees were relevant union officials during the twelve-month period.

  • How much time they spent on facility time, expressed as a percentage of their total working time.

  • How much of the employer’s pay bill has been spent on facility time, expressed as a percentage.

  • Where there is no statutory right to paid time for trade union activities, the amount of paid time off given to union representatives.

Calculating this information is potentially tricky, and will require

  • Keeping a track of facility time taken;

  • Identifying the difference between statutory facility time and paid time for trade union activities,

  • Working out the hourly cost of each employee who has taken facility time

  • The totals for wage bills and facility time.

Since the initial reporting period began on 1st April 2017, the first reports will run to 31st March 2018 and will need to be published by 31st July.

The regulations require the report to be published on the employer’s own website and also appear in the annual report.

Very much along the lines of the Gender Pay Gap reports and Modern Slavery statements, there are, as yet, no penalties or enforcement mechanisms.

The intention of the regulations is to increase accountability to stakeholders, the public, and the media. It is likely that the figures published for leading organisations will be picked up on and reported by the press.

What does this mean for employers?

Affected organisations should start gathering information as outlined above. If they don’t currently track this kind of information, they should start consulting with recognised trade unions and the employees who will be affected, advising them of what information will be required and how everybody involved can co-operate on gathering it.

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