Introduction to this document

Time off for public duties

As employees have a statutory right to take reasonable unpaid time off to carry out certain designated public duties, our letter agrees to grant time off on specified dates and sets out two alternative positions on pay.

Statutory right

Under the Employment Rights Act 1996, employees have the right to take a reasonable amount of unpaid time off during their working hours for the purposes of fulfilling certain public duties.

what are public duties?

The right applies to those employees who sit as justices of the peace (JPs) and those who are members of:

  • a local authority, e.g. local council
  • a statutory tribunal, e.g. employment tribunal
  • an independent monitoring board for a prison, or an independent prison monitor in Scotland
  • a panel of lay observers (monitor conditions for prisoners under escort and in court custody)
  • an immigration visiting committee (monitors conditions in immigration removal centres) or a short-term holding visiting committee (monitors conditions at short-term holding immigration facilities at ports and airports)
  • the National Health Service Commissioning Board, an NHS trust, an NHS foundation trust, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, a Special Health Authority or other relevant health body
  • a managing or governing body of an educational establishment maintained by a local authority, a further education corporation, sixth form college corporation or higher education corporation or other relevant education body, e.g. a school governor
  • the Environment Agency or the Scottish Environment Protection Agency
  • Scottish Water.

Time off covers attendance at meetings of the body, or any of its committees, or undertaking other duties approved by the body for the purpose of discharging the body’s functions. For JPs, the time off is to perform any of the duties of the office.

Letter contents

Our Time Off for Public Duties letter grants the employee time off for their public duties and it sets out the post they hold and the dates of absence that you’ve granted.


There’s no statutory right for any time off for public duties to be paid. So, provided you’ve not granted a contractual right to payment, whether you pay them is entirely at your discretion. Our Leaves of Absence Policy states that payment is at your absolute discretion. Our letter has two optional paragraphs on pay. One provides that the employee won’t be paid. The other says that you’re willing to exercise your discretion to pay on this occasion, but subject to the deduction of any monies they might receive from the relevant body for performing their duties.