The right to time off to perform public duties is found under section 50 of the Employment Rights Act 1996, which gives the right for ‘reasonable’ time off. There is no minimum service requirement for this right to apply.

Time off can be requested to attend meetings, and to perform duties related to the function of the body. It must be genuine time off; it is not permissible to simply re-arrange work to another time. Basic guidelines for time off to perform duties as a magistrate (equally applicable to time off for other public duties) are:

·       The employee should give “reasonable” notice of the dates on which time off is needed and details of how much time off will be required.

·       The time off must be agreed in advance.

·       If the employee is allowed time off for other reasons as well, eg to take part in union activities, the employer can take this in to account in deciding how much additional time off is reasonable.

·       Where the public duty has training requirements or other essential activities attached to it, such as being a magistrate then, when agreeing to the request for time off, the employer should recognise that these additional days off may also have to be given (Borders Regional Council v Maule [1993] (EAT)). Employers are expected to discuss any issues relating to time off to perform public duties with the employee and reach an agreement.

·       If the employee's attendance is essential to the business, then it may be reasonable for the employer to refuse time off.

·       Where there is a collective agreement about how much time off employees may have for public duties, or the employer has a policy in place, this will be taken into consideration by a tribunal, but will not necessarily be conclusive.