The responsibilities of SMEs when employees need time off for public duties.
However inconvenient it might be for SMEs, they still have to comply with the law giving individuals the right for time-off from work to fulfil certain public duties. This article outlines the responsibilities for SMEs.
An employee who has the right to take time off for public duties, such as a magistrate or member of an educational governing body has no corresponding right to be paid while they are absent from work. However, an employment tribunal may consider an employer's refusal to pay as deterring or even preventing the individual from exercising their right to time off. SMEs may want to consider a policy whereby employees are paid for all or part of the time taken off for public duties.
Be aware that having granted the time off, you should not then ask the employee to make up the hours that have been taken at a later date.
When an employee is called for jury service, you are legally required to release them from work. If the call has come at a particularly busy time when the employee's services are vital to the business it is sometimes possible, by writing to the court and explaining the circumstances, to postpone jury service to a more convenient time.
There is no legal obligation to pay employees while they are on jury service. In most cases, members of juries can claim expenses for loss of earnings and should be encouraged to do so. In practice, many employers do pay their employees during jury service, but deduct from their salary any expenses for loss of earnings that the employee has claimed.
The Volunteer Reserve Forces comprise the Royal Naval Reserve, the Royal Marines Reserve, the Territorial Army, and the Royal Auxiliary Air Force.
You will be notified if an employee joins one of these Volunteer Reserve Forces because, on joining, the Reservist must give permission for the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to contact the employer directly.
Reservists are required to undertake training activities. Most of these activities take place in the Reservist's own time. However, Reservists are also committed to 15 days' continuous duty each year, known as the "annual camp". While you are not obliged to allow Reservists any additional time off for this purpose (paid or unpaid), many employers offer a combination of annual holiday and additional leave to cover the time needed.
Reservists are liable to be mobilised into full-time military service. If this happens, the MoD will notify you of the date and likely duration of the mobilisation. Where mobilisation is compulsory, the Reservist does not have to ask for your consent to be released from work. However, where the employee's absence would cause serious harm to your business, which would not be alleviated by financial assistance, you have the right to ask for a deferral or exemption.
Reservists receive service pay from the MoD during mobilisation, so you are not required to pay their wages/salaries or maintain their company benefits. However, Reservists are entitled to remain members of an occupational pension scheme during mobilisation, provided they continue to pay their (employee) contributions into the scheme. The MoD will pay the employer's pension contribution but will make the payment to the Reservist.
When Reservists are demobilised, they are entitled to a period of post-operational tour leave. This accrues at the rate of two and a half days per month of full-time military service. Reservists who were employed in the four-week period before mobilisation have the right to be reinstated, provided they make an application at the due time. This right applies for six months following demobilisation.
Provided the employee is reinstated within six months of demobilisation, they will have continuous service. However, the time between call up and reinstatement does not count towards reckonable service.
It is wise to consider adopting a formal policy for dealing with Reservists, so that they are aware of where they stand in relation to such issues as time off, job security, pay, benefits, holidays and pensions.
In all cases of time-off for public duties, an employee has the right not to be dismissed, selected for redundancy or subjected to detrimental treatment because they have undertaken these duties.
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