Time Off for Training or Studying Part 1
f you’re an employer with 250 or more employees, you have a legal obligation to consider requests from employees who want to take time off to undertake study or training.
The legislation, which was introduced in 2010, mirrors that which provides employees with the right to request flexible working. There is the obligation to seriously consider the employee’s request but no absolute obligation to agree to it. As with flexible work, if there is a ‘good business reason’ for doing so, an employer will still be able to say ‘no’.
Who Qualifies for the Right?
Employees who have worked for you for a continuous period of 26 weeks at the date of their request and who:
have not made an earlier request under the right during the past 12 months from the date of receipt of the current request;
are not an agency worker, a member of the armed forces, a young person of compulsory school leaving age, a 16 or 17-year-old who is already under a duty to participate in education or training.
Type of Study or Training
There are no restrictions on the type of training or study for which an employee can apply although the employee will need to demonstrate that it will improve their effectiveness at work and that it will also improve the performance of your business.
There is also no limit on the amount of time or the amount of study or training that an employee can request. Employees can ask to undertake more than one piece of training in a single request for time to train.
The studies or training may be:
undertaken on your premises or elsewhere, including the home of the employee;
delivered whilst the employee is performing their routine work duties or separately;
provided or supervised by you, a local college or training provider;
undertaken without supervision;
undertaken within or outside the UK.
Payment for Training and for the Time Spent Studying
Subject to the terms of their employment contract, employees will not have the right to be paid for the time spent whilst they are training and/or studying – options include the employee working flexibly to make up the time or taking unpaid time off. You will need to consider National Minimum Wage and working time regulations as there are different rules around whether training time is treated as working time for these purposes.
Employers are not obliged to pay for the cost of the training/study course.
Any request from an employee for training should be made in writing. Their request must also provide the date on which they submitted their last request to you (if any) and should include:
The subject matter
Where and when it will take place
Who will provide or supervise it
What qualifications they would obtain (if any)
How the employee thinks it would improve their effectiveness in their job/role
An employee can only submit an application once every 12 months unless if at the time of making the current request, the employee notifies you that they wish to withdraw their earlier application because they:
mistakenly submitted an earlier application before 12 months had elapsed;
did not start the study and/or training course which was previously agreed because the training was cancelled by either you, the College undertaking the course, some other provider or facilitator or the person who was supervising it;
did not start the study and/or training course because of some unforeseen circumstance beyond their control.
Employers are required to respond within 28 days of receiving the request by either:
notifying the employee in writing that you agree their request;
informing them you consider the request to be invalid, giving reasons for your decision;
seeking additional information so that you can give the request proper consideration or
holding a meeting (after receiving any additional information if requested) with the employee to discuss the content of their request. A decision should be made within 14 days of the meeting.
Next time, we will look at the mechanisms for applying for study or training time off and what employers should do when an application is made.