An Employment Tribunal has decided that for the purposes of the Working Time Regulations 1998 (WTR), carrying out union activities does not necessarily count as ‘working time’ and so may not need to be taken into account when ensuring compliance with limits on working time and rest period rules.
The claimants in this case argued that the time spent at a union meeting fell within the definition of ‘working time’ and as such their employer failed to give them a daily rest break of 11 uninterrupted hours in every 24 hour period where they attended a meeting between shifts.
The tribunal found that although the employees may have been ‘working’, they were neither at their employer’s disposal nor carrying out activities or duties, and therefore the statutory test for working time was not met. The tribunal then went on to find that there was no contractual agreement to have the time treated as working time either.
It must be borne in mind that this is a first instance decision and is not therefore binding on other Employment Tribunals, but it may be a useful decision for employers to bear in mind when discussing union facilities and arrangements with any recognised trade unions.