Trade union facilities time

The role of the NEU representative has many different responsibilities including advice, representation, and negotiation; to effectively carry out this role, reps need time off with pay.

The legal position

Representatives from a recognised trade union are legally entitled to time off with pay to fulfil their trade union duties. The right to time off is laid down by the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 (TULCRA). Safety reps have additional rights to time off which are laid down in the Safety Reps and Safety Committees Regulations. Further information for Safety reps.

Who gets the time?

Both NEU Branch Officers and NEU workplace reps are entitled to paid time off for trade union duties. Both local authority-maintained and academy schools should buy-in to local authority facilities pots to fund the paid-release for branch officers to fulfil their duties. In addition, schools should provide facilities time to workplace reps.

What do workplace reps need the time for?

High-level individual casework, for example disciplinary hearings, where the member is facing dismissal will normally be handled by your local Branch whose time off with pay is funded through local authority facilities pots.

All workplace representatives need time to read communications from the NEU and update themselves on employment, trade union and educational matters. Reps also need time to inform and consult with members, to explain to new staff the role of the union, to offer advice and support and to gather views of staff and then to represent their views to senior leadership and to feed back to members.

School representatives have a statutory right for additional time off for training, attendance at disciplinary, grievance, sickness interviews and for school-based negotiations including time to prepare for such meetings.

How much time do reps need?

The NEU advises reps to negotiate with their school a specified period of time off their teaching or support load which is protected and provided as part of their weekly or fortnightly timetable.

Such time off to fulfil routine trade union duties should be agreed at the start of the academic year and timetabled in. This serves to minimise disruption to the school day by reducing the need for reps to take ad-hoc release and makes it easier for your headteacher and HR team to organise meetings with reps.

In addition to timetabled release, workplace reps will need to be released on an ad-hoc basis to attend meetings related to collective and individual representation as outlined above.

The amount of time off with pay may be dependant on the number of NEU members in a workplace. Your local authority or academy trust may publish a recommendation e.g. schools should release reps for 1 hour per week for every 10 members. To find out if such an agreement exists with your employer, contact your local branch

The model constitution for the Joint Consultative and Negotiation Committee (JCNC) as referred to in the TUC Model Agreement for Academies suggests:

‘Academy level (workplace) teacher union representatives should receive one period per week as timetabled trade union facilities time or as close to one hour as the length of the teaching periods allow. Support staff union representatives should receive broadly comparable facilities time.’

When negotiating time off, remember that, although it may feel uncomfortable asking for time away from your teaching or support duties, both your employer and NEU members in your workplace gain a huge amount from having effective trade union representation with appropriate support.

The benefit for employers

NEU reps and safety reps have a key role in the following all of which directly benefit the employer: 

  • Facilitating good communication between the employer and members so staff have a voice and some form of control over what is happening in the workplace increasing morale and motivation.
  • Resolving issues at an early stage so disciplinary, grievance and capability issues are less likely to escalate.
  • Identifying hazards - preventing potential accidents and injury to workers. 
  • Making sure that NEU members are fully consulted and involved in proposed changes.
  • Helping members to put forward their ideas and views to improve performance and efficiency. 
  • Assisting members to return to work after a period of sick leave.
  • Access to training on the latest employment and safety issues – advising your employer on their obligations when the law changes.
  • Research shows that involving trade union representatives effectively can help reduce dismissal and exit rates, meaning lower recruitment costs.

Recognition model agreement for academies

The aim of this model agreement is to establish formal procedures for consultation and negotiation between academy trusts and unions, and to secure facilities for trade union representatives.

NEU reps with training certificates

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