The right to time off work for trade union duties and activities allows union members and officials time off work to acquire the skills they need and to work on behalf of their members.

This leaflet aims to explain when and how a trade unionist can exercise these rights and what to do if an employer refuses to allow them.


  • Time off work for trade union duties and activities
  • Time off work for trade union duties
  • Training and industrial relations
  • Requesting time off
  • Time off work for trade union activities


Time off Work for Trade Union Duties and Activities

Although the right to time off depends upon the employers' recognition of a trade union, it is given to individual employees.

An employee who is an official of a recognised trade union may claim paid time off work to carry out certain functions or to undergo training (Section 168 Trade Union Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 [TULRA]).   Trade union members may also claim unpaid time off work in order to take part in certain union activities.

Although there is no absolute right to take time off work an employer should not refuse a reasonable request to do so. If a reasonable request is refused, the employee may complain to an employment tribunal.

An employee cannot however simply take time off without the employer's permission. The right is triggered by the employee's request.

These statutory provisions are supplemented by the ACAS code of practice on time off, which gives practical guidance to unions and employers.

The code is not legally enforceable but represents a statement of good practice which will be taken into account by an employment tribunal or the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC). It recognises that there are a wide variety of circumstances and problems which can arise in different industries and emphasises the importance of unions and employers agreeing a formal time off agreement.


This information is intended as a general statement of the law and does not purport to render specific legal advice. Specific advice on a particular problem should always be sought.

Last updated 2004