14 November 2014 #Employment
An employment tribunal has confirmed that time spent by trade union representatives attending union meetings was not "working time" within the meaning of the Working Time Regulations 1998.
A health and safety representative and a shop steward brought claims against their employer after it refused to take into account time spent on their union activities when calculating the 11 hour rest period that the employees were entitled to within a 24 hour period. The tribunal found that such time could not count as working time, because it was not time spent at their employer`s disposal, nor carrying out their duties. Furthermore, the time could not be considered as agreed working time under the recognition agreement with the union, which made provision for facilities for carrying out union duties. (Edwards and another v Encirc Ltd ET/2412489/13.)
Accordingly, the union reps were not entitled to 11 hours rest between the time when their union duties finished and hen their work duties commenced.
It is not surprising that the tribunal found that the union representatives were not at their employer’s disposal or carrying out their duties for the employer, whilst carrying out union duties or activities. However, the case reminds us that a recognition agreement can expressly, or impliedly, make carrying out union duties constitute working time. This is a point to be remembered when negotiating recognition agreements. In light of this case, unions may be keen to deal with the issue clearly. On the facts of this case, the recognition agreement could not be construed in the way the union representatives wanted. The agreement was silent on the performance of union duties outside of normal working hours, pay for those duties or the issue of rest periods.
It is worth reviewing your recognition agreements in light of this decision.