Legal Article - Employment Law

Public Duties Policy

Employees who hold the public positions listed below have a right to a reasonable amount of time-off to perform the duties associated with them, in particular:

• Attendance at a meeting of the body or any of its committees or subcommittees

• Performance of duties approved by the body, which need to be done in discharging its functions or those of any of its committees or sub-committees.
The public bodies to which these rights apply are:

• A justice of the peace

• A member of a local authority

• A member of the Broads Authority

• A member of a police authority

• A member of a statutory tribunal

• A member of a board of visitors appointed under the Prisons Act 1952, or in Scotland a visiting committee appointed under the Prisons (Scotland) Act 1989
• A member of a National Health Service Trust, Regional, Area or District Health Authority, Family Practitioner Committee, or in Scotland a Health Board
• A member of a managing or governing body of school or college maintained by a local education authority or in Scotland a school council or the governing body of a designated institution
• A member of the governing body of a grant maintained school

• A member of the governing body of a further education or higher corporation

• A member of the board of management of a college of further education

• A member of a school board or the board of management of a self-governing school

• A member of the National Rivers Authority, or in Scotland a river purification board.
The amount of time-off, the occasions on which, and any conditions subject to which time-off may be taken, are those that are reasonable in all the circumstances having regard to the following:

• How much time-off is required in general to perform the particular public duty, and how much time-off is required on the particular occasion in question

• How much time-off the employee has already been permitted for this purpose, or for trade union duties and/or activities

• The circumstances of the employer’s business and the effect of the employee’s absence upon it.

The amount of time-off allowed by tribunals has varied from a few days to over three months. Particular factors taken into account by tribunals in deciding the amount of time-off have been:

• The seniority of the employee’s position within the public body e.g. leader of the Council or opposition party

• Where employees voluntarily take on extra duties extra days off have been refused

• The greater the need of the business for the employee’s presence at work, the fewer the days off allowed

• The size of the business; the bigger, the more time-off

An employee will often be expected to use some of their holiday entitlement if the time-off is extensive.

This right is effective from the first day of employment and irrespective of the number of hours worked. There is no requirement to pay the employee’s normal wages during the time-off.

The right is to ask for time-off and then complain to a tribunal if refused. The employee who just takes leave without permission may be guilty of misconduct. If an employee persists in exceeding the time-off allowance the employer can treat this as an ordinary discipline offence and, following the normal disciplinary procedures, the employee may end up being fairly dismissed.


Published: 27 May 2011


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