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
50 45.28

Table 2: Percentage of time spent on facility time

Percentage of time Number of employees
0% 4
1 to 50% 46
51 to 99% 0
100% 0

Table 3: Percentage of pay bill spent on facility time

Requirement Figures
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:

  • Negotiations with the University relating to terms and conditions such as pay, hours of work, holidays and pensions;
  • Supporting individual union members with disciplinary and grievance procedures;
  • Attending branch, area of regional meetings of the union;
  • Fulfilling a specialist role such as Health & Safety representative.

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:

  1. The trade union representative should keep a record of how many hours they have spent each month on both trade union activities and trade union duties.
  2. At the beginning of each month, line managers of trade union representatives are sent a google doc for recording facilities time from
  3. The document asks the line manager to confirm how many hours the individual has spent on both trade union activities and trade union duties during the previous month.
  4. It is recommended that the number of hours submitted in the return is agreed between trade union representative and line manager so as to maximise accuracy.
  5. This information is requested from all trade union representatives for compliance with government reporting requirements, regardless of whether an allocation for backfill funding has been agreed for the individual (see below).

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 to update the central records and remove the person from the monthly reporting process.

Duties and activities


  • Representatives of an independent trade union recognised by their employer are entitled to reasonable paid time off during working hours to carry out certain trade union duties. These include:
  1. Negotiating terms and conditions of employment
  2. Helping with disciplinary or grievance procedures on behalf of union members, which includes accompanying workers at disciplinary or grievance hearings)
  3. Negotiating issues about union membership
  4. Discussing issues that affect union members, such as redundancies or the sale of the business
  5. Being trained for your unon work
  • Health and Safety representatives are allowed paid time, as is necessary, during working hours, to perform their functions.
  • Union Learning Representatives can take reasonable paid time off to undertake the duties of the role.
  • There is no statutory requirement to pay for time off where the duty is carried out at a time when the union representative would not otherwise have been at work unless the union representative works flexible hours, such as night shift, but needs to perform representative duties during normal hours.


  • There is no statutory requirement that union members or representatives be paid for time off taken on trade union activities. These include for example attending trade union meetings or going to meetings with union officials.
  • There is no right to time off (paid or unpaid) for trade union activities which themselves consist of industrial action.

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:
  • The need to maintain adequate continuity of the service
  • The workload
  • If the department receive funding to facilitate time off for the trade union representative
  • Possible alternatives if the request can’t be accommodated

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:

  • the purpose of such time off, while preserving personal confidential
  • information relating to individuals in grievance or disciplinary matters
  • the intended location (on or off campus)
  • the timing and duration of time off required

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.
The allocation of funds is managed annually, by Human Resources working trade unions and the relevant departments. For the academic year 2020-2021 allocations agreed are:


Chair of JUCC 0.5 FTE
Vice Chair JUCC 0.3 FTE
National Pay Negotiator 0.2 FTE
National JNC 0.2 FTE
National Dispute Committee 0.1 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.

Allocations 2020-2021
TU Role FTE Allocated
UCU Branch Senior Vice President/Safety Rep 0.35
UCU Branch Education Officer and Safety Rep and Caseworker 0.2
UCU Branch President/Safety Rep/Caseworker 0.25
UCU Branch Vice President/Safety Rep/Caseworker 0.4
UCU Branch Anticasualisation Officer/Safety Rep 0.1
UCU Branch Vice President/Safety Rep/Caseworker 0.2
UCU Branch Membership Officer/Safety Rep 0.2
UCU Branch Policy and Governance Officer/Safety Rep 0.1
UCU Branch Secretary/Safety Rep/Caseworker 0.2
UCU Branch Health and Safety Officer and Caseworker 0.1
UCU Brannch Post Graduate Research Officer/Safety Rep 0.1
UCU Branch Pensions Officer/Safety Rep 0.1
UCU Departmental Rep 0.1
UCU Branch Communications Officer/Safety Rep/Caseworker 0.2
UCU Committee Member/Safety Rep/Caseworker 0.1
UCU Branch Equalities and Diversity Officer/Safety Rep 0.2
UCU Branch Personal Casework Coordinator/Safety Rep 0.15
UCU Branch Environmental Officer/Safety Rep 0.1
UCU Committee Member/Safety Rep/Caseworker 0.15
UCU Committee Member/Safety Rep/Departmental Rep 0.1
UCU Committee Member/Safety Rep 0.1
UNISON Branch Chair and Branch Safety Officer 0.3
UNISON Branch Secretary 0.3
UNISON Assistant Branch Secretary and Vice Chair Staffside Role 0.4
UNISON Treasurer 0.1
UNISON Branch Safety Officer 0.1
UNISON Re-gradings Officer 0.2
UNISON Casework and Restructures 0.1
UNISON Welfare and Equalities Officer 0.1
Unite Chair 0.5 Chair of JUCC
Unite Branch Secretary 0.3
Unite Treasurer 0.1
Unite Health and Safety/Equalities 0.1
Unite Recruitment 0.1
Unite Health & Safety 0.2
Unite Equalities Officer 0.2
Unite Workplace Rep 0.1
Unite Workplace Rep 0.1
Unite Health & Safety 0.1