Trade union leave

This page sets out the kinds of work that represent trade union activities, trade union duties and provides links to relevant guidance and legislation.

Location: UK
Audience: All doctors
Updated: Monday 30 September 2019
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Under legislation, trade union members and representatives have a right to reasonable time off work for carrying out trade union duties and/or activities. These rights are applicable irrespective of length of service.

The general rule is that paid time off work is allowed for trade union duties concerned with collective bargaining and related issues, whereas there is no entitlement to pay when time is taken off work for trade union activities.


Trade union duties

Employees who are elected BMA representatives have the right to a reasonable amount of paid time off work to enable them to carry out specific trade union duties. A member of the BMA who is not a representative does not have this right.

Trade union duties include those concerned with:

  • negotiations
  • collective bargaining
  • related issues

Paid time off work is allowed for committee and executive meetings which are, at least in part, about negotiations and collective bargaining. However, this does not entitle representatives to paid leave for attending the BMA’s Annual Representative Meeting (ARM).

There is also an entitlement for representatives to have a reasonable amount of paid time off to undergo relevant industrial relations training which will normally have been approved by the BMA.

A union representative has a statutory entitlement to a reasonable amount of paid time off work for accompanying individual employees involved in disciplinary procedures or grievances. BMA members who have more serious issues will normally be represented by BMA full-time officials, BMA local representatives may also have an involvement in early, and less formal stages of procedures. 


Trade union activities

BMA representatives and BMA members have a statutory right to take a reasonable amount of time off work to take part in certain activities of the BMA. There is, however, no requirement to be paid for such time off work, although many employers will provide paid time for this work within a doctor's job plan.

The trade union activities for which a BMA member (rather than a BMA representative) may take reasonable unpaid time off work include:

  • attending workplace meetings to discuss negotiations with the employer
  • meeting full time union officials to discuss issues
  • voting in union elections
  • having access to services provided by a union representative

This would not include meetings held whilst on strike.

The trade union activities for which a BMA representative may take reasonable unpaid time off work include:

  • local negotiating committee, branch, area or regional meetings of the BMA
  • meetings of official policy making bodies such as the executive committee or Annual Representatives Meeting (ARM)
  • meetings with full time officers to discuss issues relevant to the workplace


Practical considerations

The amount and frequency of the time taken off work should be reasonable in all the circumstances.

As much notice as practically possible should be given to employers for time off work.

Notice should include:

  • the purpose of such time off
  • the intended location
  • timing
  • duration


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