NEU workplace reps and branch officers are working hard to protect members and pupils during the Covid-19 crisis. 

Teachers and school staff have risked their own health by going into school to ensure that children are still looked after and those at home still have an education.  This was recognised by the Education Secretary Gavin Williamson when he said in May 2020 “You have simply been outstanding, and we are so grateful for what you’ve done”. He went on to say that teachers have gone “above and beyond the call of duty, for continuing to teach children of key workers, as well as making sure children at home were given the resources they need”.

NEU reps have fought tirelessly for the rights of their colleagues, and by representing the collective views of members to head teachers and local authorities they are securing important protocols to keep members and pupils safe.

In order to ensure that the work of our fantastic reps and officers continues, we need to take collective action by lobbying members of the Schools’ Forum to ensure that the facilities time budget is de-delegated and also to remind employers that facility time is a legal entitlement and not a gift.

We believe that facility time pot arrangements are mutually convenient, but if individual schools disagree, we will seek alternative methods to ensure our legal rights to represent members.

Facility time is a relatively small expense for employers.  The cost of employee representation is certainly smaller than the cost of resources available to management, such as human resources departments, legal fees, or consultancy services.

The aim of this guide is to set out in brief the benefits of LAs de-delegating union facility funding in to local ‘pots’ and for academies to ‘buy back’ into these ‘pots’. Detailed guidance on De-delegation and what action local officers can take is available in the Joint Union Toolkit here .

There is also joint union guidance on the the DfE’s Advice on trade union facility time, together with NEU supplementary guidance which can be used if your facility time is threatened, advice on Recording and reporting the use of trade union facility time, Legal framework on facility time and Checklist of actions for local officers are all available on NEU officers SharePoint.

What is facility time?

Facility time in simple terms is time off from an individual’s job, granted by the employer, to enable a them to carry out their trade union role.

The statutory provisions on time off for trade union representatives are contained in Sections 168-170 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 (TULR (C) A), Section 10 Employment Relations Act 1999 and the Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations 1977.

Attacks on facility time

In recent years, trade union facility time has been systematically attacked by politicians and groups hostile to trade unions.  In particular, facility time in the public sector has been misrepresented as ‘tax payer funding’ of trade unions.

Benefits to employers of buying in and buying back in to trade union facilities time

There are huge benefits to employers as a result of granting trade union facility time and for the de-delegation of the funding including:

Cost effective

  • Early intervention in relation to complaints, grievances and disciplinaries preventing escalation into more serious problems, thereby saving the employer and tax payers money by reducing the impact on staff time and possible legal costs.
  • Provides access to an effective route for statutory and collective consultation and bargaining.
  • Access to branch officials from the NEU.

TUC research[1] found that reps with facility time contribute the following to the UK economy:

  • Workplace representatives mean 13,000 to 25,000 fewer dismissals each year across the UK, creating a benefit of £107m to £213m for employers.
  • 17,000 to 34,000 fewer voluntary ‘exits’, worth a saving of £72m to £143m to employers.
  • 3,600 to 7,300 fewer employment tribunal cases, worth £22m to £43m to business and exchequer.
  • 8,000 to 13,000 fewer injuries, equivalent to 161,000 to 241,000 fewer working days lost.
  • 3,000 to 8,000 fewer cases of work-related illness equivalent to 125,000 to 375,000 fewer working days lost. Benefits range from £45m to £207m to society.
  • Academies can have access to a framework and structure by which they can manage industrial relations.
  • Reducing the need for schools to establish, agree and coordinate release arrangements and paid time off for duties and training.
  • Reducing cover and supply costs
  • Reducing the disruption to lesson time and children’s education by having to release school-based reps for meetings and training.
  • Reduces the demands on local or workplace representatives.

Becoming an employer of choice

  • Partnership working with trade unions – improving workplace relations leading to building a reputation of being ‘a good place to work’.
  • Acknowledging the legitimacy of employee voice reflects the interests of employees, individually and collectively, in everything an employer does.
  • Provision of a ready-made structure for meaningful consultation and negotiation, providing reassurance to members that their views are valued in decision making.
  • Better communication to manage change during restructuring and redundancy processes, thereby improving understanding of decisions, minimising negative impacts and reducing the number of working days lost due to industrial action.

[1] Facility time for Union reps, separating fact from fiction 2012