Time-off rights

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Rights and conditions
02 November 2016
ATL representatives are the face of the union for members in their workplace. Their role in promoting the union, supporting existing members, recruiting new ones, reporting issues and sharing information is invaluable.

It is therefore vital that workplace, health and safety and union learning reps are able to get time off to access accredited training and to develop transferable skills whilst networking with other ATL reps from around the UK.


Legislation exists to enable representatives of recognised unions to carry out their role more effectively in schools and colleges. The relevant legislation differs depending on the rep's role.

In Northern Ireland, an equivalent code of practice from the Labour Relations Agency exists - this can also be downloaded from the link above.

Workplace representatives

Under Section 168 of the Trade union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992, employers are required to allow union officials (including all ATL workplace reps in recognised workplaces) to take paid time off during working hours for:

  • negotiations with the employer related to collective bargaining in relation to which the trade union is recognised
  • the performance of functions on behalf of other employees related to collective bargaining which the employer has agreed may be so performed by a trade union
  • undergoing union or TUC-approved training in aspects of industrial relations relevant to carrying out the duties listed above.

The legislation says the time taken off should be 'reasonable in all circumstances', which means consideration of the purpose for which the time off is required and the needs of the undertaking in question.

Examples of activity the above would cover could include:

  • speaking to new colleagues and asking them to join ATL
  • updating your notice board with ATL materials
  • preparation time for meetings or activity
  • meeting members in your workplace to discuss issues.

Health and safety representatives

Health and safety committee representatives are entitled to reasonable time off work, with pay, for duties including:

  • inspecting the workplace regularly to identify potential hazards and causes of accidents
  • investigating employee complaints concerning health and safety issues at work
  • making representations to the employer on matters arising out of health, safety, and welfare affecting employees at work
  • investigating accidents or dangerous occurrences.

The Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations 1977 require employers to provide such facilities and assistance as safety representatives reasonable require: this could include office space, a secure filing cabinet, a notice board and access to a telephone and computer.

They also require employers to provide time off with pay during working hours to carry out health and safety functions. The amount of time is not specified in the regulations, will vary between each workplace, and will need to be negotiated with your headteacher (any meetings you attend should be in addition to the agreed time).

Union learning representatives

The Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) 1992 Act has been amended to rights to time off for training and duties to ULRs. The amended act states that learning reps from recognised unions should be allowed paid time off for carrying on any of the following activities in relation to qualifying members of the trade union:

  • analysing learning or training needs
  • providing information and advice about learning or training matters
  • arranging learning or training
  • promoting the value of learning or training
  • consulting the employer about carrying out any such activities
  • preparing for any of the above duties.

Employers are also required to give ULRs reasonable paid time off to undertake training. The act does require the union to notify the employer in writing that the employee is a ULR of the trade union and that the ULR is sufficiently trained to carry out their duties or will be within six months of the notification.

Time off in maintained schools

Those who work in the maintained sector under the 'Conditions of Service for School Teachers in England and Wales (the Burgundy Book) have further clarification about the time off to which they are entitled to.

The conditions state that the accredited school representatives of the recognised teachers' organisations should be permitted reasonable opportunities and given the necessary facilities to discharge their functions as provided for in the ACAS Code, namely:

  • union matters such as recruitment, maintaining membership, collecting contributions and communicating with members
  • within the responsibilities conferred on them by their respective organisations, industrial relations matters within the individual school such as the handling of members' grievances.

The Burgundy book goes on to cover physical facilities which accredited representatives should be entitled to.

Time off in independent schools and FE colleges

In independent schools, academies and FE colleges where ATL are recognised, there should be an agreement between ATL and the employer on facilities and which clarifies the roles. It is important to note paragraph 48 of the ACAS Code which states: 'The absence of a formal agreement on time off, however, does not in itself deny an individual any statutory entitlement. Nor does any agreement supersede statutory entitlement to time off.'

Non-recognised workplaces

Time off for trade union duties and training to perform such duties is only an entitlement where ATL is recognised for collective bargaining purposes.

Useful information is also available on the TUC's Work Smart website.

See also