Press release

Consultation begins with unions on facility time

A consultation about paid time off work for trade union duties and activities for civil servants has been launched.

13 July 2012
CAB 065-12  

The Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude, has today launched a consultation into how much paid time civil servants should be allowed to take off work so they can take part in trade union duties and activities during office hours.

This paid time-off, known as ‘facility time’, currently costs the taxpayer around £36m a year in paybill costs alone.  There are at least 6,800 trade union representatives across the civil service taking paid time (although that figure is estimated to be much higher if those working on Health & Safety and Learning programmes are included) and approximately 250 of them spend 100% of their working week on union business.

Launching the consultation, Francis Maude said the government recognises that effective trade union representation can play a constructive role in the workplace and this consultation does not seek to change the statutory basis for facility time. However changes are urgently needed to the current facility time arrangements in the civil service in order to reflect modern working practices.

Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude, said:

We believe that trade unions play an important role in the modern workplace, but it’s time to redress the balance between supporting effective engagement with employee representatives and providing better value for the taxpayer.

In the Civil Service alone tens of millions of pounds are spent on trade union facility time and across the public sector that figure is much higher.  It isn’t right that taxpayers are funding full-time union representatives who haven’t done a Civil Service job in years.

For too long, trade union facility time and paid-time off for union work on health & safety and other activities was poorly monitored and inadequately controlled. That’s why we want to ensure that the Civil Service has in place the same controls and monitoring that the best private businesses have.

The consultation with the Civil Service Trade Unions will look at a range of issues, including:

  • developing a common system for reporting and monitoring facility time across the Civil Service;
  • limiting the practice of 100% of some Civil Service employees’ time being spent on trade union duties and activities;
  • reviewing arrangements for time off for trade union activities so that the default is that this time is unpaid; and
  • a reduction in overall facility time across the Civil Service, in particular through more rigorous individual management of facility time - ensuring that the provision of the use of facilities is appropriate, and represents good value to the taxpayer.

The consultation, which begins today, will take place with the Civil Service Trade Unions and last for eight weeks. Civil servants have also been invited to comment if they wish to do so.

Notes to editors

1. Facility time is paid time off during working hours for trade union representatives to carry out trade union duties and time off for representatives and members to undertake trade union activities.

2. The government recognises that unions can play a constructive role in a modern workplace contributing to the effective and efficient operation of public services.

3. Many union representatives give their own time in addition to any facility time, to support their colleagues both individually and collectively through the industrial relations machinery. Where this operates well it serves the interest both of the union members and the employer well.

4. We are seeking to find a balance between supporting constructive engagement with employee representatives for the good of public services and providing better value for the taxpayer.

5. A copy of the consultation document can be found here.

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