Employers have a statutory duty to allow their employees reasonable time off work to carry out public duties. Such duties include acting as a justice of the peace, as a prison visitor, as a member of a local authority or relevant health or education body, as a member of a police authority etc. A full list can be found in the Employment Rights Act 1996, Section 50.
If you are faced with a request for time off work to carry out public duties, the amount of time you allow the employee to take, when the time is taken and subject to what conditions must be ‘reasonable in all the circumstances’. When reaching your decision, three specific questions should be asked. These are:
- How much time off is needed for the employee to perform the duty in question and how much time is needed to perform the duties of the office overall?
- How much time off for public duties has the employee already been granted?
- What is the effect on your business of the employee taking the time off work?
If you refuse a request, an employee generally has three months in which to present a complaint to the Employment Tribunal (ET). If the ET finds that the refusal was not reasonable given all the circumstances, it has the power to award ‘just and equitable’ compensation.