Law Report: Worker entitled to time off for union duties: London Ambulance Service v Charlton and others - Employment Appeal Tribunal (Mr Justice Wood, Miss JW Collerson and Mr JD Daly), 1 September 1992.

An employee who is a trade union official and applies to his employer for time off with pay to carry out trade union duties is not necessarily entitled to time off to attend a meeting simply because it is in connection with collective bargaining; the employer, when considering whether the employee's request is reasonable, can take account of other factors such as the overall history, timing and agenda of the meeting.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal dismissed an appeal by the London Ambulance Service from an industrial tribunal's decision upholding the applicants' complaint relating to the LAS's refusal to grant time off with pay for trade union duties.

The negotiating structure for the LAS involves the Whitley Council at national level and a joint consultative committee beneath that. Various officials of trade unions are involved in the joint consultative committee.

The National Union of Public Employees, which has the largest membership, established a district consultative committee which examines proposals from and submits proposals to the various forums within the LAS about matters affecting the terms and conditions of membership as a result of national Whitley discussions or agreements.

Ten members of the committee applied, pursuant to section 27(1)(a) of the Employment Protection (Consolidation) Act 1978, as amended by the Employment Act 1989, for time off with pay for their duties. The LAS refused. The applicants, four NUPE members, complained to an industrial tribunal which upheld their complaints.

Peter Clark (Capsticks) for the LAS; Jeremy McMullen (O H Parsons & Partners) for the applicants.

MR JUSTICE WOOD, giving the judgment of the EAT, said that the old section 27(1)(a) provided that an employer should permit an employee who was an official of a trade union to take time out during his working hours to carry out 'those duties of his as such an official which are concerned with industrial relations between his employer and any associated employer and their employees'.

That wording had been considered in Sood v GEC Elliott Process Automation Ltd (1980) ICR 1, which was approved in Beal v Beecham (1982) ICR 460, 473, where Lord Justice O'Connor said that it was not correct to limit industrial relations in section 27 of the 1978 to mean collective bargaining as defined in section 32. The meetings and attendance at committees and the purposes of the committees must be sufficiently proximate to the duty defined under section 27(1).

The amended section provided that an employee should be permitted to take time off to carry out 'any duties of his as such an official, which are concerned with negotiations with the employer that are related to, or connected with, any matters which fall within section 29(1) of the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act 1974 ..'

The wording was quite different and collective bargaining and section 29(1) of the 1974 Act was substituted for the old former phrase of 'industrial relations'. There was a relaxation in the number of duties which might be 'related to or connected with' collective bargaining, but there must that nexus with collective bargaining as defined in section 29(1) of the 1974 Act.

Reading the words literally it seemed that if you were actively preparing for negotiations in connection with collective bargaining then you were carrying out a duty of an official of a trade union which concerned those negotiations. Provided that there was sufficient nexus between the collective bargaining and the duty involving preparation for that particular issue, it seemed that the occasion fell within section 27(1)(a).

The Code of Practice produced by the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service provided that reasonable time might be sought to prepare for negotiations, inform members of progress, explain outcomes to members, and prepare for meetings with the employer about matters to which the trade union had any representational right.

Section 27(1)(a) was wide in its scope and was by its wording open to misuse. It was the provisions of the other parts of section 27 which maintained the balance. Merely because an occasion fell within section 27(1)(a) it did not necessarily follow that time off should be granted.

So far as good industrial relations were concerned, frankness between the employer and trade union was to be encouraged; an employer was entitled to seek sufficiently clear details of the issues involved in order to be able to take an informed decision in answer to a request; although in some circumstances, the trade union would want to play its cards close to the chest, it would nevertheless help if it was frank in its answers.

On an application to an industrial tribunal there were two issues: First, did it fall within section 27(1)(a)? Secondly, the issue under section 27(2) of reasonableness. Even if strictly within the definition of section 27(1)(a) there might well be issues such as, had there been recent meetings of the collective bargaining committee, so that to ask for a further meeting without any agenda might be unreasonable? What was the overall history? The actual timing? There were many factors which should be taken into account and merely because the duty fell within the definition of section 27(1)(a) it would not necessarily be reasonable to grant a request in certain circumstances.

The industrial tribunal's decision was not flawed in law. There was evidence on which it could find that the activities of the district consultative committee were related to or connected with collective bargaining as defined. The appeal must be dismissed.

Ying Hui Tan, Barrister

Arts and Entertainment
Armstrong, left, and Bain's writing credits include Peep Show, Fresh Meat, and The Old Guys
TVThe pair have presented their view of 21st-century foibles in shows such as Peep Show and Fresh Meat
Arts and Entertainment
Keys to success: Andrew and Julian Lloyd Webber
arts + entsMrs Bach had too many kids to write the great man's music, says Julian Lloyd Webber
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
footballMan City manager would have loved to have signed Argentine
Arts and Entertainment
Hand out press photograph/film still from the movie Mad Max Fury Road (Downloaded from the Warner Bro's media site/Jasin Boland/© 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
films'You have to try everything and it’s all a process of elimination, but ultimately you find your path'
Arts and Entertainment
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films

New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site on Friday

Russia Today’s new UK channel began broadcasting yesterday. Discussions so far have included why Britons see Russia as ‘the bad guy’

New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch at the premiere of The Imitation Game at the BFI London Film Festival
filmsKeira Knightley tried to miss The Imitation Game premiere to watch Bake Off
Enner Valencia
footballStriker has enjoyed a rapid rise to fame via winning the title with ‘The Blue Ballet’ in Ecuador
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Mobile Developer (.NET / C# / Jason / Jquery / SOA)

£40000 - £65000 per annum + bonus + benefits + OT: Ampersand Consulting LLP: M...

Humanities Teacher - Greater Manchester

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: The JobAt ...

Design Technology Teacher

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Calling al...

Foundation Teacher

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: EYFS Teachers - East Essex...

Day In a Page

Bryan Adams' heartstopping images of wounded British soldiers to go on show at Somerset House

Bryan Adams' images of wounded soldiers

Taken over the course of four years, Adams' portraits are an astonishing document of the aftermath of war
The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities