Employees can get time off work for certain public duties as well as their normal holiday entitlement. Employers can choose to pay them for this time, but they do not have to.
Who qualifies for time off
An employee can get a ‘reasonable’ amount of time off if they are:
- a magistrate (also known as a justice of the peace)
- a local councillor
- a school governor
- a member of any statutory tribunal (for example an employment tribunal)
- a member of the managing or governing body of an educational establishment
- a member of a health authority
- a member of a school council or board in Scotland
- a member of the Environment Agency or the Scottish Environment Protection agency
- a member of the prison independent monitoring boards (England or Wales) or a member of the prison visiting committees (Scotland)
- a member of Scottish Water or a Water Customer Consultation Panel
- a trade union member (for trade union duties)
Reasonable time off
The amount of time off should be agreed between the employee and employer beforehand, based on:
- how long the duties might take
- the amount of time the employee has already had off for public duties
- how the time off will affect the business
The employer can refuse a request for time off if they think it is unreasonable. They cannot refuse their staff time off to do jury service.
Who does not qualify for time off
Staff cannot ask for time off work for public duties if they are:
- agency workers
- members of the police service or armed forces
- employed on a fishing vessel or a gas or oil rig at sea
- merchant seamen
- civil servants, if their public duties are connected to political activities restricted under their terms of their employment
All workers can ask for time off to do jury service.
Disputes about time off
Employees can raise a grievance if they feel that employers are not allowing them to take enough time off for public duties.
Time off and pay
Employers can choose to pay staff for time taken off, but they do nbt have to.
Employees in the reserve forces
Employees in the Army Reserves or other reserve forces have certain protections under employment law if they are called up for service.
Employers of reservists also have particular rights and obligations in this situation - for example they may be able to claim financial assistance or apply for an exemption.
Contact the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) if you have any questions about time off work for public duties.