Employees’ New Right To Request Time Off For Training

Employee Training Rights

16.04.2010

A new right for employees to request time off work to study or for training came into force on 6th April. It applies to businesses with 250 or more employees and will be extended to all employers, regardless of size, from 6 April 2011.

Fergal Dowling, partner and Head of Employment law at the Midlands' offices of law firm Irwin Mitchell, said: "On the one hand, this law could potentially have a huge impact with the government anticipating that the new right will affect some 11 million employees in Great Britain, which could impact upon productivity if they are off work.

"However, the legislation will not have a significant impact on employers who are already providing employees with training. Furthermore, employees do not have a right to be paid for the time off so the impact on the bottom line for employers is minimised.

"Employers are, however, required to consider all requests seriously and may only refuse the request if they consider that one of a number of specified business reasons apply.  The employee will have a right to bring an employment tribunal claim if the employer fails to comply with the procedures under the new legislation or refuses a request for a reason that does not fit in one of the permissible grounds."

Reasons to refuse training include the cost burden, inability to reallocate work, affect on the ability to meet customer demand, or the employer’s belief that the training would neither improve the employee’s effectiveness nor business performance.

Fergal adds: "Employees will also be protected from suffering a detriment as a result of having made a request as any dismissal on the grounds that an application has been made will be automatically unfair."

The new right to time off for training means that employees with at least 26 weeks' continuous service will be entitled to make a request for time off. The training must be for the purpose of improving their effectiveness at work and the performance of the employer's business although it does not have to lead to a formal qualification.

The right will not apply to agency workers, school age children or young employees who qualify for the separate right to time off for training applicable to 16-18 year olds.