Time Off Work for Public Duties

Publication Date01 Jan 1985
AuthorJohn Muir
SubjectEconomics,Information & knowledge management,Management science & operations
Time Off Work
for Public Duties
by John Muir
The practice of management nowadays and here the
term is used in its broad sense to cover management of
community activities is to bring in a wide spectrum of
By so doing, different but relevant experience is called
upon and the final decisions should reflect a broadly based
The act of managing is not necessarily confined
to the professional alone but is shared with or influenced
by people representing the community, the customer and
so on. They bring a dimension to the decision-making pro-
cess which, in theory at least, makes the actual decisions
more acceptable. Whether they are more practical is another
When a firm or organisation recognises a trade union, it
moves away from a position where the management alone
makes decisions since a good deal of business thereafter
rests between the union and the company. Where there are
no unions companies are developing their own ar-
rangements for consultation with staff, through committees
and two way communication groups. Whatever the format,
the process requires that those who are consulted be pro-
vided with time to consider the points at issue. Where
unions are recognised there is a legal right to time off.
In the community at large the management of functions is
largely in the hands of employees paid to manage the
professional managers. However, within the democratic pro-
the role of the ordinary citizen includes that of
manager-cum-policy maker. In the justice field the citizen
as JP has been responsible for centuries for dealing with
the bulk of the work
The question is where do the people come from who play
a part in public life? The old source used to be the so called
leisured classes at least, individuals who had the time
Many participants in public life still come from that sector,
but today an undue number would be found to be unac-
ceptable to the community at large, on the grounds that they
are unrepresentative of the whole.
The retired group produces a considerable number and as
a group has twin advantages. They have the time and can
draw on the experience of a long working life. Whether more
should come from this group is open to question. Increas-
ing longevity and a tendency towards earlier retirement
makes the group more available. However it may be argued
that their experience of working life is no longer particular-
ly relevant to current problems.
The third group is women, who are seriously unrepresented
in public duties. There should be very many more women
taking an active role in public life. The reasons why this is
not so are generally well known and need not be the
cern of this article, except in so far as many women are
themselves at work. This leads to the fourth category
people at work.
If the first question is where do the people come from who
undertake public duties, then the second, related to people
at work, is how to arrange their release for these duties. The
employer, not unnaturally, asks what advantage there is for
At first sight it seems all loss. The services of the
employee are lost and perhaps to no fixed pattern; each
absence has to be covered and that is likely to be difficult
if there is a production line; rearrangement can mean extra
cost even though the absent employee's wages are not
On the credit side is the benefit that comes from being seen
and identified as a good employer. A positive policy in favour
of release is a hallmark. Then, too, the employer has the
benefit of the employee's broadened experience. Public life
is enhanced by the experience the employee brings to public
duties, but the converse is true as
Experience on the
on the local authority, or as a school governor can
be ploughed back into the firm and such experience can
be an important factor in weighing up a person's capacity
to take on a more responsible post.
The law provides for the right to a reasonable amount of
time off to attend to trade union duties and activities. It also
provides for the employee's right to a reasonable amount
of time off for public duties; and those public duties are
described under Section 29 of the Employment Protection
(Consolidation) Act 1978:
a justice of the peace
a member of a local authority
a member of any statutory tribunal
a member of a Health Authority (England and Wales)
or a Health Board (Scotland)
a member of the managing or governing body of an
educational establishment maintained by a local
education authority (England and Wales) or a school
or college council or the governing body of a central
institution or a college of education (Scotland)

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