Legal

How to manage time off for training

10 Oct 2019 By Nia Evans

Nia Evans explains what organisations should consider when an employee requests an extended period off for development or study

Training is one of the most popular means of improving individual performance and facilitating career progression. A recent survey found that 56 per cent of staff would leave their current role if their employers stopped providing training, and 31 per cent have actually left a job because of this issue. 

Right to time off

Employees with at least 26 weeks' continuous service and working for employers with 250 or more employees are entitled to request time off work to undertake study or training. Any application must be for the purpose of enabling the employee to undertake study or training that will improve both the employee's effectiveness in the employer's business and the performance of the employer's business. The right does not apply to agency workers and most school-age children.

The employee's application must meet certain statutory formalities, including being in writing and detailing the practicalities of the course. The employer is obliged to hold a meeting with the employee (to which the employee has the right to be accompanied) within 28 days of receiving the application and then, within 14 days, provide a written notice of their decision. The decision notice must also outline certain formalities, similar to those required in the application. If the decision is refused, then the notice must state at least one of the permissible grounds for refusal and why it applies.

As the right to request time off for study or training is a statutory right, if employers fail to comply with any request in the correct manner, an employee may make a complaint to the employment tribunal for compensation of up to eight weeks' pay.

Practicalities

There is no set amount of time off that should be granted; this is at the discretion of the employer. There is also no right to payment for the time off. However, employers should be aware that under the National Minimum Wage Regulations, time spent carrying out training ‘approved by the employer’ during normal working hours (and travelling) counts as working time for the purposes of the minimum wage.

The cost of the training is also at the discretion of the employer. They can choose to pay all or part of the fees if they think it will benefit the business. If this is the case, it is useful for employers to consider recoupment of training fees, either by including a clause in the employment contract or in a separate written training fees agreement so that employees who attend a training course paid for by the employer and subsequently leave the business are obliged to pay back all or part of the fees, usually on a sliding scale (note that the apprenticeship levy cannot be recouped in this way).

Many companies find it useful to have a training or learning and development policy to set out the legal procedural requirements and practical rules relevant to their own business.

Upcoming changes

The government is introducing changes to the information required in a ‘section 1 statement’ in April 2020. Previously, certain particulars had to be provided within two months of the start date, whereas from 6 April 2020 there will be much more information required to be given in one single document to employees and workers before or on the day of starting employment. 

Included in the additional particulars is the requirement to state whether there is any mandatory training that the worker is required to complete and any other required training that the worker must pay for. Employers also have to specify within two months of commencement whether there is any training entitlement provided by the employer.

Nia Evans is a solicitor in the employment, pensions, benefits and immigration team at Blake Morgan

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