Employee surveys and other sources have shown that
staff feel more committed to their organisation if they believe that opportunities for training are available to them.
That is so even if individuals do not take up such training.
One may think therefore that that the new right to request time off for training would have been more welcome but, due to its nature, it has attracted criticism as just being more red tape. Many employers do provide training that is geared to the needs of their organisation and either suggest or agree such requests.
The right only applies if you employ 250 staff or more from 6th April although it will be extended to all employers from April 2011. The right is diluted as you will gather from the points below, but is is designed to encourage such requests to be given serious consideration.
- An employee may request time off without pay for training provided he has 26 or more weeks continuous service; agency employees are not entitled to make a request and 16 amd 17 year olds may be covered by another entitlement for time off to pursue a recognised qualification.
- The request may be declined for an approved reason – see below.
- The training must enhance both the employee’s own performance and that of the business.
- The nature of the training may vary e.g. it could lead to an accredited, recognised qualification or it could simply improve skills that are relevant to the role of the employee or to the workplace.
- You can insist on changes, if you agree to the request, such as it must take place in-house or you can recommend an alternative course or qualification.
- If you agree a request certain points must be placed in writing such as whether it is with or without pay and whether any fees or study expenses will be paid – the right does not require payment of expenses or time off. If the rquest is agreed, there is no need to follow the meeting sequence below.
- If you receive a request, you will have 28 days in which to arrange a meeting with the employee and then have 14 days to give a decision following that meeting.
- If the request is turned down, you must set out the right of appeal and allow the employee to be accompanied to an appeal.
- A second request can not be made within 12 months of the first one – there are some exceptions to that.
The permissible grounds for refusal are:
- that the proposed study/training would not improve the employee’s effectiveness in the business or the performance of your business.
- the burden of additional costs or the detrimental effect on your ability to meet customer demands.
- your inability to re-organize work among existing staff or inability to recruit additional staff.
- the detrimental impact on quality and/or detrimental impact on performance.
- there will be insufficient work during the periods the employee proposes to work.
- planned restructuring of the workplace.
If you fail to give the request appropriate consideration or take note of relevant facts or fail to follow the procedure, you could find yourself having to respond to a tribunal claim. However, a Tribunal is unlikely to consider the merits of the decision as the regulations place the onus on the employee to make the case for persuading the employer to agree to the request.
You should also bear in mind other current rights to take time off with or without pay for training. For example, staff under notice of redundancy may take time off for retraining or to attend interviews and receive up to 2/5 of a week’s pay. Trade union representatives, health and safety representatives, pension trustees may also take time off with pay or without pay depending on the nature of the training.
It remains to be seen whether this new right will produce any sound benefits or simply becomes a source of aggravation. The training budget is often one of those that is reduced in difficult periods but senior managers who wish their organisation to remain successful will invest in training and will explore more cost effective ways of delivering training suited to the learning styles of their staff regardless of whether the new entitlement is a help or a hindrance.
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© 2012 HR Management Dimensions Ltd.
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