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What rights do employees have to time off work?

12 December 2011
What rights do employees have to time off work?

Employees have a right to holiday and family leave such as maternity leave. Do they have any other rights to time off work?

Yes, employees have the legal right to a reasonable amount of time off work to enable them to carry out certain official functions and for other defined reasons. Some rights are to paid time off, while others are to unpaid time off.

For example, employees who are officials of a recognised independent trade union have the right to a reasonable amount of paid time off work to enable them to carry out duties concerned with collective bargaining and related issues.

Other employees entitled to a reasonable amount of paid time off in relation to their duties include safety representatives and pension scheme trustees.

You've mentioned trade union officials. Do trade union members also have a right to time off?

Yes, employees who are members of a recognised independent trade union must be permitted a reasonable amount of time off work to enable them to take part in certain trade union activities, such as shopfloor meetings and the voting-in of shop stewards. The right is to unpaid time off, and does not include time off for industrial action.

What about time off work for public duties, such as being a school governor?

An employee who is a Justice of the Peace or an official or member of certain public bodies has to be allowed a reasonable amount of unpaid time off work to carry out the relevant public duties. The bodies include local authorities, statutory tribunals and prison visiting committees. They also include certain education bodies, covering school governors.

I have heard that young workers have the right to time off work to attend training courses. When does that apply?

Young people aged 16 or 17 who have left full-time education without attaining a prescribed "standard of achievement" have the right to paid time off work to acquire a "relevant academic or vocational qualification". This applies where they have left education without achieving, for example, grades A to C in five GCSE subjects. The right also covers 18-year-old employees who began their studies or training for the relevant qualification before their 18th birthday.

Apart from young workers, are any other workers legally entitled to time off for training?

Trade union-appointed and employee-elected safety representatives have the right to a reasonable amount of paid time off work to attend health and safety training.

Employees who are occupational pension scheme trustees have the right to a reasonable amount of paid time off work to undergo training relevant to the performance of their trustee duties.

In addition, employees who are trade union officials have the right to paid time off work to undergo relevant industrial relations training, and employees who are trade union learning representatives have the right to paid time off work to undergo training relevant to this role.

Employees in organisations with 250 or more employees have the right to make a request in relation to study or training, which could include a request for time off for training, but employers can turn down such a request on one or more specified grounds.

I've heard that employees who are being made redundant have a right to time off work. Is that correct?

An employee who has been given notice that he or she is redundant has the right to take reasonable paid time off during working hours to look for new employment or make arrangements for training for future employment. To exercise this right the employee must have two years' continuous service by the expiry of the notice period.

What is "reasonable" will depend on the individual circumstances of the case and relevant factors may include how difficult finding new employment is likely to be, the distance that the employee may have to travel in order to do so, and the needs of the employer.

Do I have to let employees take time off work for antenatal care?

Yes, pregnant employees have the right to paid time off to attend appointments for antenatal care on the recommendation of a registered medical practitioner, registered midwife or registered nurse. Employers can ask to see an appointment card, unless the employee is requesting time off for her first appointment.

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