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Allow NHS staff time to act as union reps, says RCN

The RCN is urging the House of Lords to continue to allow NHS union representatives paid time to carry out union duties 

The RCN is urging peers in the House of Lords to continue to allow NHS staff time within their paid working day to act as trade union representatives.

The government's Trade Union Bill, which is being considered by the Lords, would exclude NHS and local government staff from facility time – paid time to carry out union duties.

But the RCN has asked peers to back an amendment to be debated today (February 23) to remove this provision from the bill.

The RCN believes that attempts to limit the time union representatives have to attend to their duties will harm productivity and increase staff turnover.

New evidence from a survey of RCN representatives has shown that those who get sufficient facility time are able to influence important issues such as staffing levels, management of bank and agency nurses, and staff sickness and stress.

This follows independent evidence last year which revealed that staff turnover in organisations without union representatives is three times higher than in those with union representatives, equating to an annual saving in the NHS of at least £100 million.

RCN head of employment relations Josie Irwin said: ‘While the limits on facility time are intended to save public sector money, they will in fact have the opposite effect.

‘The health service can ill-afford further damage to staff morale or patient safety.’

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has said that the cap on facility time is intended to achieve value for money for the taxpayer.

However, the RCN has said this is over-simplistic and based on an incorrect assumption that the public sector has too many trade union representatives.

Analysis of a sample of British workplaces revealed that in public sector health care there is one representative for every 80 employees, compared to one for every 66 employees in the private sector.

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