Trade Union Facility Time at the University of Sheffield
The University of Sheffield recognises the important role that the recognised campus Trade Unions (TUs) play in contributing to the working environment and conditions for all members of staff.
Through the Joint Union Consultative Committee (JUCC), the University and colleagues from the Universities and Colleges Union (UCU), Unite the Union, Unison and GMB have been able to have successful discussions on a range of matters relating to terms and conditions of employment, as well as important topics such as Reward and Recognition, Academic Career Pathways, Casualisation, and Gender Pay. We continue to have positive discussions on these and other important matters relating to the work and working lives of the whole workforce.
In order for this positive work to take place, the University recognises that TU representatives need time away from their jobs in order to represent their members on an individual or collective basis. This is known as “Facility Time” i.e. the provision of paid or unpaid time off from an employee’s normal role to undertake TU duties and activities as a TU representative on behalf of the TU’s members.
On 1st April 2017, the Trade Union (Facility Time Publication Requirements) Regulations 2017 took effect. These regulations were laid following the enactment of the Trade Union Act 2016 passed in May 2016. The Act requires public sector employers to publish information on facility time. The purpose of these regulations it to promote transparency and allow for public scrutiny of facility time. They create scope for sensible savings by improving public accountability, which will ensure
taxpayer’s money is only spent on justifiable and accountable trade union work that represents value for money.
Like other organisations, the University is required to publish certain information (see below) by 31st July every year, for the preceding 1st April to 31st March period. The information is to be published in three places: on the employer’s website, in the annual accounts and on a central government website.
For the period 1st April 2019 to 31st March 2020, the output figures are:
Table 1: Relevant Union Officials
|No. of employees who were relevant union officials during the relevant period||Full time equivalent employee number|
Table 2: Percentage of time spent on facility time
|Percentage of time||Number of employees|
|1 to 50%||46|
|51 to 99%||0|
Table 3: Percentage of pay bill spent on facility time
|Provide the total cost of facility time||£160,707|
|Provide the total pay bill||£387,478,473|
|Provide the percentage of the total pay bill spent on facility time
calculated as (total hours spent on trade union activities by
relevant union officials during the relevant period/total paid hours) x 100
Table 4: Paid trade union activities
|Time spent on paid trade union activities as a percentage of total paid facilities hours calculated as total hours spent on trade union activities during the relevant period/total paid facility time hours x 100||37.04%|
The University continues to collate information on Facilities Time and will next publish the figures for the period 1/4/2020 to 31/3/2021 by 31/7/2021.
Any queries relating to this document should be directed to Ian Wright (Deputy Director of Human Resources) or Hannah Morgan (Head of Organisational Development).
|What is facility time?||
Trade union representatives are entitled to reasonable time away from their substantive jobs to fulfil their trade union role. These roles comprise both trade union activities and trade union duties, which may involve, for example:
Facilities time is the provision of paid or unpaid time off from an employee’s normal role to undertake trade union activities and trade union duties. Each year the University is required to publish information on total facilities time as part of the Trade Union (Facility Time Publication Requirements) Regulations 2017.
|Reporting and recording facility time||
The University is required by law to record the amount of time trade union representatives spend on trade union duties and activities. The process in place to record this activity is as follows:
Please note: If a member of staff ceases to be a trade union representative, either the staff member, line manager or relevant TU Branch Secretary should contact firstname.lastname@example.org to update the central records and remove the person from the monthly reporting process.
|Duties and activities||
Note: The University of Sheffield maintains a flexible approach to time off for trade union duties or activities. TU members at the University are allowed reasonable time off during working hours to undertake TU activities subject to prior agreement with managers.
|What is 'reasonable time' off?||The law doesn’t define what is considered ‘reasonable’. It is the managers’ responsibility to evaluate what constitutes ‘reasonable’ time off. When dealing with a request managers should consider:
It should be noted that what is reasonable in one role may not be reasonable for another, and that what may be considered reasonable at one point in time may, at another time not be considered reasonable (e.g. where deadlines are approaching or at peak work times).
Trade union representatives and members requesting time off to undertake trade union duties or activities should provide their line manager with as much notice as practically possible concerning:
Trade union representatives should seek to minimise business disruption by being prepared to be as flexible as possible in seeking time off in circumstances where the immediate or unexpected needs of the University make it difficult for colleagues or managers to provide cover for them in their absence.
We believe that the most successful outcomes can be reached through open constructive dialogue and flexibility on all sides. Your HR contacts can support in this process. Should you have any queries or concerns about how balance the legal rights of TU reps and the need to manage your service, do please speak to your HR contact.
|What are backfill arrangements?||
The University allocates funds to facilitate the backfill of work for key trade union representatives in UCU, Unite and UNISON who will spend time away from their substantive job on trade union duties/activities.
UCU 3 FTE
Chair of JUCC 0.5 FTE
Nb GMB numbers are currently too low to warrant backfill arrangements.
Each trade union determines how this overall allocation will be distributed amongst their representatives to provide a financial backfill for their time. For example, a representative may receive an allocation of 0.2FTE (1 day/week) of their working time.
The allocation is translated into a financial backfill for each individual, based on their annual salary and working hours plus salary on-costs (pro-rata where appropriate).
Funds are made based on the allocations agreed for each staff member and paid into the departments facility time cost centres at the beginning of the academic year. Details of arrangements are shared with departments. Funds should be used to, where possible, reduce the workload of the reps to allow them to carry out their TU roles e.g. providing part time or casual staff to cover work, overtime arrangements, or additional resources. Managers are required to communicate to HR how the funds have been/will be spent.
Occasionally individuals may receive a temporary uplift in allocation if involved in specific areas of work e.g. significant restructures.
Backfill funding levels do not define an upper or lower limit to the amount of time an individual trade union representative can/will spend away from their day job. Each representative is entitled, in law, to a “reasonable amount” of paid time off to undertake trade union duties. What is “reasonable” will vary on a case by case basis, and potentially at different times in the year. Determining what is reasonable is a matter for discussion between the trade union representative and their line manager. See ‘What is reasonable time off?‘ for more information. HR colleagues can help with these discussions.