Section 50 of Part VI concerns the right to take ‘reasonable’ time away from workplace for public duties.  The guidance on Gov.UK indicates that this could be for a range of duties, for example, if the employee is also a magistrate, a local Councillor or a school governor.This time off does not have to be paid and is in addition to an employee’s holiday entitlement.

Currently, Section 50 limits public duties to employees who are justices of the peace in England, Wales and Scotland and volunteers of a number of bodies, including local authorities.  The number of duties covered by Section 50 is increasing from 01 October 2018, courtesy of the Time Off for Public Duties Order 2018.

This is all to do with the Ministry of Justice’s intention of improving the diversity of the lay observers who monitor the condition of those in custody.  At the moment, says the MoJ, the majority are over the age of 55 and are retired.  Therefore, to being in more diversity and a younger observer, the 2018 Order amends the Employment Rights Act 1996 to give unpaid time off for employees who volunteer in one office and three bodies as follows:

  1. Independent Prison Monitors in Scotland appointed in accordance with the Prisons (Scotland) Act 1989 and under the control of the office of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons for Scotland.  This office is added to Section 50 (1).  Note that the equivalent English and Welsh body operates under a different monitoring framework and is already included in Section 50 (2)
  2. A panel of lay observers in England and Wales appointed under the Criminal Justice Act 1991 (lay observers do not exist in Scotland).  These monitor conditions in court custody.  This body is added to Section 50 (2)
  3. An Immigration Visiting Committee appointed under the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 in Great Britain.  These monitor conditions in Immigration Removal Centres and this body is added to Section 50 (2)
  4. Short-Term Holding Facilities Visiting Committee appointed by the Secretary of State under the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 in Great Britain.  The STHV Committee monitors conditions at immigration facilities at ports and airports and this body is added to Section 50 (2)

Apologies for any information overload above but I have underlined the important words.

Northern Ireland’s Department of Justice have not followed suit and amended the equivalent Section (VII) in the Employment Rights Order 1996.

The 2018 Order is employment law in Great Britain only, relevant to employers who issue contacts under the Employment Rights Act 1996.

The staff handbook will, possibly, contain details of who is entitled to time off for public duties.  If it does, this will need to be amended to take into account the above from 01 October 2018.