For many years employers have funded time off for trade union duties for school employees who are trade union representatives.
Trade union representatives carry out a range of complex and demanding activities such as advice, representation and negotiation. Funding for time off allows representatives to attend meetings during the working day. Without it, meetings involving trade union representatives – disciplinary, grievance, ill health and capability meetings, formal or informal, and consultation meetings on changes to working arrangements – would be much more difficult to arrange. Meetings would usually have to take place in the evening or at weekends, affecting everyone involved.
Without centralised facilities time, significant additional costs would fall upon schools and academies.
Union representatives help to resolve issues at an early stage. If less facilities time was provided, fewer issues would be resolved informally, resulting in a significant increase in costs to schools and workload for school leaders and local authority officers. Disciplinary, grievance and capability issues would be more likely to escalate, with cases more likely to reach employment tribunals.
Research shows that involving trade union representatives effectively can help reduce dismissal and exit rates, meaning lower recruitment costs and better staff morale and productivity.1 It also reduces workplace-related injuries and illnesses through better health and safety standards.
The return on the investment made in trade union facility time is many times the sum spent. Research commissioned for the TUC from the University of Hertfordshire stated that for every £1 spent between £3 and £9 of benefits were accrued.