It's the law: Time off for training

How would government proposals affect employers and employees?

The Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills has issued a consultation paper, Time to Train, on the proposed new right to request time off for training. The consultation closes on 10 September.

The proposed new right is intended to apply only to employees who have been working for an employer for at least six months. The right to request time to train would give employees a legal right to ask their employer for time away from their mainstream duties to do relevant training, which their employers would be required to seriously consider. The new right would closely follow the legal model of the right to request flexible working, which should make it easier for employers to work with the new right using the procedures they already have in place to manage flexible working requests.

Employees could ask to follow accredited programmes leading to qualifications, or for unaccredited training to help them develop specific skills relevant to their jobs. In both cases, the only requirement would be that training should help to improve business performance and productivity.

Employees will need to set out their requests in writing, explaining the nature of the training or qualification, how it relates to their work and the time it would take. They will have the right to be accompanied at any meeting to discuss their request.

Employers are required to seriously consider requests using the same sort of processes to manage requests for flexible working. However, the proposals suggest they could reject requests on these grounds: the training would not help to improve business performance or productivity; suitable training is unavailable, or not available at a suitable place or time; the burden of additional costs is too great; detrimental effects on quality, performance or ability to meet customer demand; an inability to provide cover while the employee is absent; planned structural changes.

A dissatisfied employee will be able to bring a claim to an employment tribunal, but only on the grounds that the employer has not followed the correct procedure or rejected an application on incorrect facts. A tribunal may require the employer to reconsider the application or award compensation.

 - Emma Burrows is a partner and head of the employment group at Trowers & Hamlins solicitors

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