Functions and rights (extract from TUC guidance)
The key functions undertaken by Union Learning Representatives are set out in the Employment Act 2002.
ULR statutory functions are;
- identifying learning or training needs
- providing information and advice about learning or training
- arranging learning or training
- promoting the value of learning or training
- consulting the employer about carrying out such activities
- preparing to carry out any of the above activities.
The Employment Act 2002 gives rights to paid time off to ULRs provided:
- they are in independent unions – such as those affiliated to the TUC and they are in workplaces where unions are recognised by the employer for collective bargaining purposes.
Statutory rights for ULRs and union members
- Union learning representatives are entitled to reasonable paid time off for training and for carrying out their duties
- Union members are entitled to unpaid time off to consult their learning representative, as long as they belong to a bargaining unit for which the union is recognised.
- Union members needing to access their ULR have the right to do this in work time but the employer is not legally obliged to pay them during this time.
The way these rights can be implemented is set out in the ACAS Code of Practice on Time Off for Union Representatives.
How to secure recognition and paid time off
The union needs to give notice to the employer in writing of the name of the appointed ULR .The ULR needs to be sufficiently trained to carry out his/her duties either at the time of the notice or in normal situations within six months.
Whether training is ‘sufficient’ is determined by the union and should cover the functions set out in the Employment Act. It need not lead to a qualification although that would be desirable. The employer has to pay for the time that the ULR is being trained.
The union/ULR should inform the employer of the training either undergone or to be undertaken. Once the employer is notified of the ULR’s past training or intention to train, then the employer is obliged to recognise the ULR by providing paid time off to carry out the duties and for any required further training.
The amount and frequency of the time off has to be ‘reasonable’ in all circumstances. For example, when a ULR arranges to have a meeting with members it must be at a time that does not undermine the safety and security of other workers.
Employers also need to be reasonable and ensure that ULRs are able to engage with hard-to-reach groups such as shift workers, part-time staff and those employed at dispersed locations. ULRs should provide management with as much notice as possible of the purpose of the time off, the location and the timing and duration and the content of any training course.
Employers should consider making available facilities necessary for ULRs to perform their functions such as rooms for meetings/interviews, office space and the use of electronic access such as the internet and emailing. The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) has updated its Code of Practice on Time Off for Trade Union Duties and Activities. This can be looked at on line here.