Employers not aware of right to request training

Do you know about the right to request time off for training or study? 

If you answered no, you are not alone. According to new research commissioned by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), only 50% of large employers are familiar with the right to request training.

What is this right to request time for training?

As of April 2010, employees who worked for their employer for at least 26 weeks in an organisation of 250+ employees have the right to make a request for time off to study or complete training that improves their effectiveness at work and the performance of their employer’s business.

Once an application has been received, the employer has 28 days to either accept the employee’s request or meet with the employee to discuss the request.

An employer does have the right to refuse a request for a permissible business reason, for example, if it would have a negative effect on the business’s ability to meet customer demands or the work would not be able to be reorganised amongst existing members of staff.

There had been talk of extending this right to those small and medium sized employers with less than 250 employees, but there were concerns about the potential effects.

What did the research find?

The research found the following:

Number of requests

  • Formal take-up of this right seems to be low.
  • Employees are discouraged from making these requests because there is a view that employers’ grounds for refusal are so wide-ranging that in reality, it depends on the line managers’ attitudes.

Awareness of the right

  • There are big differences in levels of awareness amongst employers – it differs according to the organisation’s size, sector, and general skills and training culture.
  • Awareness at the employee and line management levels seem to be ‘patchy’.

Use

In most cases, the requests made by employees were for external training courses of ‘fairly substantial duration’ and leading to qualifications at Level 3 or above or even degree or post-graduate level. In some other cases, the right was used for one-off external courses, for example for health and safety qualifications.

Effect of right

The introduction of the right has not had a ‘tangible effect on employer’s investment in training’. It was found that there was no direct effect on lessening the skills gap or providing access to training, but it has helped some employers take a more consistent approach to training requests and compelled some employers to think about what procedures should be in place.

Potential effect if extended to SMEs

Those who were spoken to as part of the research agreed that the set up costs that would be required to get the ball rolling could be seen as a hurdle for very small employers, but many SMEs do currently have processes already in place and with some support and guidance, this hurdle could be overcome.

If their employees did take advantage of this right, they did not think that the costs would be ‘disproportionately high’.

They recognised the positive benefits it could bring, such as a higher engagement level, increased productivity and a reduced skill gap but they felt it would not have an immediate impact on their activities or organisational culture.

Importance of training

It is unlikely that, at this stage, the right will be extended to smaller organisations, but this does not mean that you should forget about staff training. Whether it is in-house training, on-the-job training or external courses, your business can benefit from having well-trained employees. Find out more about the benefits here.

 

Director of Legal Services

James Tamm

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