New Acas guidelines on time off for union representatives to help them undertake their union duties came into effect on 1 January.
The new statutory code of practice, which replaces an earlier code on the same subject, has been updated to provide further guidance on the provision of cover when union representatives take time off, payment for time off, and the responsibilities of both line managers and union representatives in ensuring time off arrangements are effective.
Under the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992, union representatives have a statutory right to paid time off to carry out trade union duties and to undertake trade union training.
Ed Sweeney, chair of Acas, said: “Union representatives play an important role in the modern workplace. To carry out their role it is however essential that union representatives receive appropriate time off.
“The new code will help both union representatives and the organisations they work for understand the law relating to time off, and also manage in a fair and effective manner the practical day-to-day issues that arise when requests for time off are made.”
The Acas code states: “Employers and unions have a joint responsibility to ensure that agreed arrangements work to mutual advantage by specifying how reasonable time off for union duties and activities and for training will work.”
Jeya Thiruchelvam, employment law editor at XpertHR, added employers cannot afford to ignore the new code.
She said: “While a breach of the code will not automatically render an employer liable to legal proceedings, employers cannot afford to ignore the code as its provisions are admissible in evidence in employment tribunal proceedings.”