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The value of trade union facility time

Insight, challenges and solutions

In the office
Researchers: Martin Mitchell
Published: June 2012


We undertook this independent qualitative study into the value, challenges and issues arising from trade union facility time in the public sector. We also focussed on examples of good practice and possible solutions to overcoming challenges.


Four main benefits from the use of facility time

  • Provision of a ready-made structure for meaningful consultation and negotiation saves money and reassures members that their views are valued in decision-making.
  • Facilitation of partnership working with trade unions improves workplace relations and the reputation of an employer as ‘a good place to work’.
  • Earlier intervention in relation to complaints, grievances and disciplinaries prevents escalation into more serious problems and saves organisations (and taxpayers) money by reducing the impact on staff time and possible legal costs.
  • Better communication during restructuring and redundancy processes improves understanding of decisions, minimises negative impacts and reduces the number of working days lost through industrial action.

Three main challenges to effective facility time

Further development of union strategy for supporting reps in their use of facility time, by

  • Continuing to address misleading and one-sided information about facility time; and
  • Ensuring branch structures and practices are adequate to address the challenges created by outsourcing and ‘localisation’.

Significant need for more practical information on the most effective ways to manage facility time, including

  • flexible and tailored approaches to account for varying workloads;
  • effective systems for fairly distributing work between reps;
  • promoting the benefits of released or seconded reps.

Production of Information and guidance to help reps overcome the challenge of accessing facility time

  • raising awareness among managers and colleagues;
  • sharing good practice;
  • setting up  more transparent systems for allocating and monitoring work to reduce concerns about potential misuse of facility time.


Qualitative research in two parts:

  • An online web portal which collected written answers to research questions;
  • Two deliberative focus groups with branch reps and public sector HR professionals.

Read the report

Read the executive summary