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Time Off for Public Duties and Training

There are a number of situations in which you may be entitled to take time off work, including for training and to carry out public duties.

Taking time off to carry out public duties or undergo training is done partially at the discretion of your employer, but you still have rights to ensure that they do not deny any reasonable requests.

Time off for public duties

If you are an employee, you are entitled to take time off to fulfil ‘public duties’. This covers being called for jury duty and performing public duties required from civic roles you have taken on outside of work.

Jury duty

If you are called for jury duty, you should show a copy of the letter stating this to your employer. They are required to let you take time off work for jury duty, but if your absence is poorly timed with regards to the needs of the business, they might ask you to delay it. In this case, you will need to respond to the jury summons explaining that you cannot get time off work and stating when you will be available within the next 12 months.

Your employer is not required to pay you during jury service. If you are not paid, you can submit a claim for loss of earnings from the court to cover this. In order to do this, you need to get your employer to complete a Certificate of Loss of Earnings stating how much you would have been paid, which you must submit with your expenses claim after your jury service has been completed.

Other public duties

Your employer should allow you to take a ‘reasonable’ amount of time off for duties relating to being:

  • a magistrate
  • a local councillor
  • a school governor
  • a member of the governing or managing body of an educational institution maintained by a local authority
  • a member of a statutory tribunal
  • a member of a prison’s Independent Monitoring Board
  • a member of the General Teaching Councils for England and Wales
  • a member of the Environment Agency
  • a member of a health authority
  • a member of a trade union

Your employer does not have to pay you for this time off. You will also have to discuss with them what would be a reasonable amount of time to be absent from work, based on what your public duty involves and how much time you have already taken off for it, as well as the needs of the business.

Your employer can turn down your request if they don’t think it’s reasonable. You cannot take time off for public duties if you are:

  • an agency worker
  • a member of the police or armed forces
  • a merchant seaman
  • working on a seaborne fishing boat or oil or gas rig
  • a civil servant whose public duties relate to political activities limited by their employment terms

Time off for training

In some circumstances, you may have the right to take time off to study or to take a training course. However, your employer doesn’t have to pay you while you are away because of training.

In order to take time off for training, you will need to be an employee who has been working for an organisation with at least 250 staff members for 26 weeks or more. You must also be able to show your employer that the training you are applying for will enable you to do your job better and help the business.

Your employer will usually have a procedure you need to follow when requesting time off. If not, you can write a letter to your employer which includes:

  • an explanation that you are asking for time off for training under Section 63D of the Employment Rights Act 1996
  • what the training is about
  • the time and location that the course is scheduled to take place
  • any qualifications you might get if you complete the training
  • the name of the course provider
  • a description of why you think the training would make you more proficient at your job and the benefit it would have to the business
  • details of any previous requests you’ve made regarding time off for training

You can only make one of these requests per year.

Once your employer has received your letter, they need to make a decision on whether to allow you to undertake the training or not. They may agree immediately, or they may arrange a meeting to talk to you about it in further detail.

The meeting should be held within 28 days of receiving your request, unless the staff member who normally handles such requests is absent when it arrives. They should let you know their decision within 14 days of the meeting, unless you agree otherwise.

If your employer rejects your request, they need to have a good business reason for doing so. For example, they may not feel that the training is relevant to your job, or feel that improving your skills in a particular area will not be of benefit to the business. If they deny your request, you can appeal against their decision.

To appeal, you should write to them within 14 days of their decision, explaining why you disagree with their reasoning for refusing you time off work. They will then have to arrange a second meeting within 14 days of receiving your appeal, and make a final decision 14 days after the meeting.

If you still do not agree with their decision, you can raise a grievance with your employer or contact the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) for advice (see below).