The Trade Union (Facility Time Publication Requirements) Regulations 2017 are now in effect. The new regulations - which implement section 13 of the Trade Union Act 2016 - came into force on 1 April.

The Facts 

The central new requirement of the Facility Time Publication Regulations is that public sector employers publish the total cost of paid facility time taken by employees who are union officials. Affected organisations must report specified figures and percentages for each 12 month period (1 April to 31 March).

The new requirements only apply to relevant public sector employers, which will include NHS Trusts, publicly funded care, school, emergency, and justice services, and many arts, sports and other bodies. In addition, only organisations with 50 or more employees are affected.

The information to be reported is complex and set out in detail in the regulations. It will include:

  • The total number of employees who were relevant union officials during the period.

  • The percentage of each of these employees' working time spent on facility time.

  • The percentage of the employer's total pay bill spent on facility time.

  • Details of paid time off given for trade union activities for which there is no statutory right to paid time.

Calculating this information is potentially tricky, and will require tracking facility time taken; differentiating between statutory facility time and paid time for trade union activities, and calculating the hourly cost of each employee who has taken facility time (wages, pension, and national insurance contributions divided by working hours); and the gross figures for total wage bills and facility time.

As the first 12 month reporting period begins 1 April 2017, the first reports will need to be published by 31 July 2018, containing information to 31 March 2018. The report must be published on the employer's own website, as well as in its annual report.

No penalties or enforcement mechanisms have been set out. As with gender pay reports and Modern Slavery statements – which also require publication on an organisation's website - the intent is accountability through visibility to stakeholders, the public, and the media. The press is likely to report on the figures published by high profile organisations.

What does this mean for employers?

While the first reports are not due until summer 2018, if your organisation is affected by the regulations, you should begin collecting the necessary data now to report on the current period (ending March 2018). You will need to know which employees are taking facility time, how much, and whether this is statutory paid time to perform duties connected to the workplace, or trade union activity time paid by agreement.

This may pose a challenge for employers who do not currently track facility time, and may involve co-ordinating with recognised trade unions and affected employees, both to share information and to smooth relations, as the additional scrutiny has been criticised by unions as politically motivated and is unlikely to be welcomed.