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 don’t have to.
Who qualifies for time off
An employee can get a ‘reasonable’ amount of time off if they’re:
- 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 General Teaching Councils for England and Wales
- 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’s unreasonable. They can’t refuse their staff time off to do jury service.
Who doesn’t qualify for time off
Staff can’t ask for time off work for public duties if they’re:
- 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 aren’t 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 don’t have to.
Employees in the reserve forces
Employees in the Army Reserves or other reserve forces have certain protections under employment law if they’re 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.