Can an employer refuse time off for union duties or activities at a particular time due to the requirements of the business?

An employer can refuse a request for time off to conduct union duties or activities where the time off requested is unreasonable. Whether or not an employer can refuse time off at a particular time due to the requirements of the business will depend on the particular circumstances. The Acas code of practice on time off for trade union duties and activities says that factors that may be relevant in deciding what is reasonable include:

  • the size of the organisation and the number of workers;
  • the production process;
  • the need to maintain a service to the public; and
  • the need for safety and security at all times.

The employer must consider each request on its merits and ensure that it acts reasonably if refusing a request due to the requirements of the business. It should cooperate with the union to find a mutually acceptable alternative time for the duties or activities to be carried out.