Line to take - LTT47 - Date of receipt of request, working days and variations to time for compliance
- FOI/EIR: FOI
- Section/Regulation: s10
- Issue: Date of receipt of request, working days & variations to time for compliance
- Source: FOI (Time for Compliance) Regulations 2004, 2009 and 2010; Academies Act 2010, Information Tribunal
- Details: Statutory Instruments 2004 No. 3364, 2009 No. 1369 and 2010 No. 2768; Academies Act 2010, s10. Berend / LBRT (12 July 2007)
- Related Lines to Take: n/a
- Related Documents: Statutory Instruments 2004 No. 3364, 2009 No. 1369 and 2010 No. 2768; Academies Act 2010; FOI (Time for Compliance) Regulations, Awareness Guidance 11, EA/2006/0049 & EA/2006/0050 (Berend)
- Contact: LA/VA
- Date: 14/12/2010
- Policy Reference: LTT47
- © Copyright Information Commissioner's Office, re-used with permission
- Original source linked from here: LTT
Line to take
The date of receipt of a request may be a day when an office is closed, such as a weekend, bank holiday or other office closure.
For the purpose of calculating the time for compliance with a request, working days exclude days which are bank holidays anywhere within the UK.
The time allowed for compliance with a request may be varied in accordance with the "Time for Compliance Regulations"
Section 10(1) states that "a public authority must comply with section 1(1) promptly and in any event not later than the twentieth working day following the date of receipt".
Date of receipt
Section 10(6) states that the date of receipt is "the day on which the public authority receives the request for information".
There is no requirement for this to be a working day. Indeed the "date of receipt" could be at a weekend, on a bank holiday or any other day on which an office is closed.
We acknowledge that the actual date of receipt when an office is closed may not be entirely certain, particularly with requests submitted in hard copy form.
Section 10 of the Act defines a working day as “any day other than a Saturday, a Sunday, Christmas Day, Good Friday or a day which is a bank holiday under the Banking and Financial Dealings Act 1971 in any part of the United Kingdom.”
This means that a day which is a bank holiday in any of the four nations of the UK is a non-working day for the purposes of the FoIA. Therefore a day which is say, only a bank holiday in Northern Ireland but not in England, Scotland or Wales (such as St Patrick’s Day) will count as a non-working day in all countries covered by the FoIA.
Where offices close for privilege days in addition to bank holidays, these do not count as non-working days for the purposes of the FoIA.
In Berend v ICO & London Borough of Richmond upon Thames (LBRT) the Information Tribunal considered the length of a working day. It found that “working day” in the context of FOI referred to the definition given above, and that “There is no definition within the Act as to the length of a day and in the absence of any such definition, we are satisfied that a day ends at midnight”
A public authority receives a request on a Saturday when it is closed. That counts as the day of receipt. However the time for compliance commences on the first working day after that, which is likely to be the following Monday, or, if the Monday is a bank holiday, the Tuesday.
Time for Compliance Regulations (Statutory Instrument 2004 No. 3364, 2009 No. 1369 and 2010 No. 2768)
In addition to the extensions to time allowed for the collection of fees and for consideration of the Public Interest Test for qualified exemptions, the Time for Compliance Regulations provide details of when the normal 20 working day requirement can be varied.
In all cases, whether or not a variation to the normal 20 working day limit is allowed, the Act requires a public authority to respond “promptly”
The variations allowed by the Time for Compliance Regulations are as follows:
Variations that may be applied without prior reference to the Information Commissioner
Maintained schools and academies
The twentieth working day following the date of receipt can be read to mean the earliest of
- The twentieth working days following the date of receipt, excluding any day which is not a “school day”, or
- The sixtieth working day following the date of receipt
A “school day” means any day on which there is a session (i.e. any day in which pupils are in attendance).
Effectively school holidays and “inset” or training days on which no pupils are in attendance, are not counted as working days.
These provisions have applied to maintained schools in Northern Ireland since June 2009 (The Freedom of Information (Time for Compliance with Request) Regulations 2009).
Academy schools have been added to Schedule 1 of the FoIA by The Academies Act 2010. This will be effect for existing academies from January 2011. The "new style" academies, converting from maintained schools, have been covered since September 2010. Subject to that schedule, The Freedom of Information (Time for Compliance with Request) Regulations 2010 apply the same time obligations to academy schools as for maintained schools.
Where the request is received by an appropriate records authority or by a person at a place of deposit appointed under section 4(1) of the Public Records Act 1958 and the request relates to information
- That may be contained in a public record; and
- That has not been designated as open information for the purposes of section 66 of the FoIA.
then the time limit can be extended to the thirtieth working day following the date of receipt.
Effectively 30 working days are allowed for requests for transferred public records that haven’t been designated as open information, so that the records authority has time to consult with the responsible or transferring public authority who may need to consider if any of the information is exempt.
Variations that may only be applied at the discretion of the Information Commissioner
The following variations to the time limit are only available at the discretion of the Information Commissioner. They will only apply if a public authority has, within twenty working days following the date of receipt of the request, applied to the Commissioner for an extension of the time in which it must respond to a request, and the Commissioner has agreed to extend that time.
It is unlikely that actual requests for extensions would be dealt with by FOI Complaints Case Officers, as this issue would arise at a stage prior to a valid section 50 complaint being received. However, Case Officers may need to retrospectively consider whether this requirement has been met when deciding if a time breach has occurred.
Where a request for information cannot be met without obtaining information (recorded or unrecorded) from any individual (whether or not a member of the armed forces) who is actively involved in an operation, or in preparation for an operation, of the armed forces then the time for a response can be extended at the discretion of the information Commissioner.
The Commissioner may extend the time for a response to one he considers reasonable in all the circumstances, but not exceeding the sixtieth day following the date of receipt of the request.
Information held outside the UK
Where a request cannot be complied with without obtaining information held outside the UK, and because of this the public authority is unable to comply within the normal time limit, then the time for a response can be extended at the discretion of the information Commissioner.
The Commissioner may, at his discretion, extend the time allowed for a response to one he considers reasonable in all the circumstances, but not exceeding the sixtieth day following receipt of the request.