A right for employees to request time off work to undertake study or training has applied to employers with 250 or more employees since 6 April 2010.
This right was due to be extended to all employees, regardless of the size of their employers from 6 April 2011. However, following consultation, the government has decided to delay the extension of the right so that it can scrutinise the potential impact on smaller employers.
Despite the delay, the word from the Government is positive. Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning Minister, John Hayes said: “it is vital to the economy and individuals that everyone has access to the training they need. That is why we are investing in apprenticeships, protecting adult and community learning and freeing colleges to respond to local needs”.
Small employers however, continue to express concern that the right balance is struck to meet the needs of both employers and employees.
It is for this reason, that the time to train provisions will operate in a similar way to the right to request flexible working. The important word here is”request”. Employees do not have an inalienable right to time off for training purposes but rather a right simply to request time off. Once an employee has made that request, the employer must then formally consider it, but, and this is a big but, the employer is not obliged to grant the request.
Circumstances in which an employer may reject a request are set out in the Employment Study and Training (Procedural Requirements) Regulations 2010. The regulations follow the same strict procedural requirements of the right to request flexible working. Employers are entitled to refuse the request if one of a number of acceptable business reasons applies.
The employer will be able to reject a request if, allowing time off would cause unnecessary disruption to the employer’s business or, if the cost of finding a replacement whilst an employee is absent is too prohibitive.
The government hasproduced helpful information which can befoundhere.