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Taking Time Off Work for Public Duties

According to the law you can take time off work to carry out various public duties and services. But, the rights and responsibilities for employers and employees varies.

PUBLIC DUTIES: It depends most what the actual duty or service is for and what you will be doing.

Typical examples of who takes time off work to perform public duties would be a magistrate or a school governor.

This page highlights the rights and responsibilities for employees and for their employers.

You must have employee status to get time off work to carry out certain public duties. But, the time spent away from work will not count as part of your holiday entitlement rights.

Employers can choose whether to their pay staff for taking time off work for public duties. But, UK employment legislation does not require them to do so.

Note: All employers must allow their employees time off work to attend jury service.

Qualifying for Time Off for Public Duties

As an employee you are eligible for a ‘reasonable‘ amount of time off work to perform public duties if you are also a:

  • Local councillor
  • Magistrate (aka a justice of the peace)
  • Member of any statutory tribunal (e.g. an employment tribunal)
  • Member of the managing or governing body of an educational establishment
  • Member of a health authority
  • Member of a school council or board in Scotland
  • Member of the Environment Agency or the Scottish Environment Protection agency
  • Member of the prison independent monitoring boards (England or Wales) or a member of the prison visiting committees (Scotland)
  • Member of Scottish Water or a Water Customer Consultation Panel
  • School governor
  • Trade union member (to carry out trade union duties)

Agreeing a Reasonable amount of Time Off

There is no set amount of time for this type of absence from work written in statute. Thus, the employer and the employee should form an agreement beforehand. Various circumstances may form the basis of a reasonable time, such as:

  • What the public duties or services are and how long they might take to complete.
  • How taking the time off work is likely to affect the business operation.
  • How much previous time the employee had off work to perform trade union or public duties.

Employers can refuse a request by staff for time off if they believe it to be ‘unreasonable’. But, they cannot refuse a request by their staff for time away from work for doing jury service.

Staff who do not Qualify for Time Off

Unless you are giving staff time off for jury service, they cannot ask for time off to attend public duties if they are:

  • Agency workers
  • Civil servants (if the public duties are connected to political activities restricted under their terms of their employment)
  • Employed on a fishing vessel or a gas or oil rig at sea
  • Members of the police service or armed forces
  • Merchant seamen

Worker Disputes about Time Off

All employees can choose to raise a grievance at work. It is the right path to take if you feel an employer is not allowing you enough time off to perform public duties.

Employees in the Army Reserve Forces

Different rules apply for employees in the Army Reserves or other reserve forces. They have some protection under employment law if they get called up for public service.

The rules also differ for employers of reservists. Employers have particular rights and obligations in situations such as these. In some cases, they can claim financial assistance or they can apply for an exemption.

Acas Helpline

Acas stands for the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service. You can contact them for free help and advice about having time off for public duties.

Taking Time Off Work for Public Duties in the United Kingdom