Many schools, NHS bodies and other public authorities have a legal duty to publish data in relation to trade union facility time by 31 July 2018 at the latest. We take a look at the requirements of the legislation and the long anticipated guidance.

The publication duty

The Trade Union (Facility Time Publication Requirements) Regulations 2017 came into force on 1 April 2017. These require most public authorities (including but not limited to NHS trusts, foundation trusts, CCGs, and most foundation, voluntary aided, foundation special and academy schools), to publish data in relation to:

  • the number of FTE employees who were relevant union officials during the relevant reporting period
  • how many employees who were relevant union officials during the relevant reporting period spent the following percentage of their working hours on facility time:
    • 0%
    • 1 - 50%
    • 51 - 99%
    • 100%
  • the percentage of the total pay bill (i.e. gross wages + pension contributions + national insurance contributions) spent on facility time
  • time spent on paid trade union activities as a percentage of total paid facility time hours (see below for a consideration of the difference between trade union duties and activities)

The first relevant reporting period ran from 1 April 2017 – 31 March 2018. The data must be published annually, with the first publication of data being due by 31 July 2018. The data must be published both on the public authority’s own website and on a Government portal (which is expected to be launched in early July). Where public authorities currently produce an Annual Report and Accounts, facility time data must also be included in the staff report covering the relevant period.

Important note (Wales): The requirement to produce annual reports does not apply to devolved Welsh public bodies (Trade Union (Wales) Act 2017).

New guidance

New guidance has been published by the Government on the duty on most public authorities to publish data in relation to trade union facility time. In summary:

  • The guidance recommends that employers subjected to the duty should collect the following information from their trade union representatives throughout the relevant year:
    • when an employee becomes/ceases to be a trade union representative (new starters and leavers must still be included in the figures)
    • a detailed breakdown of their total working hours, the number of those working hours spent on facility time for trade union duties, and how much paid time off for trade union activities they have had
  • There is no obligation to go beyond the requirements of the regulations (e.g. record details of the nature of the activities a trade union rep has been given time off for)
  • The data should be collected, stored and used in accordance with data protection legislation /GDPR (remembering that information about trade union membership is special category personal data to which special safeguards apply)
  • Special rules apply if a trade union representative carries out duties/activities for more than one public authority e.g. under a cost-sharing arrangement. In these circumstances, only the employer should include the trade union representative when publishing details of the number of trade union representatives, the percentage of time spent on facility time, and time spent on paid trade union activities. However, in respect of the duty to report on the percentage of the total pay bill spent on facility time, any monies a relevant public authority spends or contributes towards a shared trade union representative should be published.

What is the difference between trade union duties and activities?