What rights do I have to request time off for training from my employer?

Employees wishing to undertake training

Many employees may wish to undertake training courses to help them improve at their job. Often an employer will make the decision that an employee needs to go on a specific course or needs to attain a specific qualification in order to enable them to perform better at their job. Examples of this may be a company in-house solicitor and an HR manager going on specific courses to learn about employment law developments which they will need to be aware of.

In certain circumstances, however, it will solely be the decision of the employee that they wish to undertake some form of training or qualification which may benefit them in their current job and also improve their future job prospects. In this situation they will have to ask their employer for time off.

What does the law say?

Following the enactment of the Apprenticeship, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009 as of 6 April 2010 employees will be given the right to ask for time off from work for study or training.

Does this legislation apply to all employees?

In order to qualify to make a request under the Act an employee will have to have been in employment with that employer for over 26 weeks.

Does the legislation apply to all employers?

Currently the legislation only applies to employers who employ a total of 250 or more staff. The legislation will apply to employers who employ less than 250 members of staff in April 2011.

What must an employee show in order to be provided with the right to request flexible working hours for training?

If an employee wishes to request flexible working hours for training or qualification they will need to show that they think the training will improve both their individual performance and the employer’s business performance.

This, however, does not receive more definition in the Act which could lead to some conflict between the employee and their employer. For example the employer may regard certain soft skills as not directly improving the performance of the business with the employer simply arguing that they would due to the desire to undertake the course.

Does an employer have to grant flexible working for training purposes?

There is no obligation under the legislation for the employer to accept the request the employer must only genuinely consider the formal request made by their employee. If having considered the formal request made by the employee, the employer decides according to specified factors not to allow the request he is perfectly within his rights to do so.

On what grounds can an employer reject the request?

The employer can respond by rejecting the request providing relevant reasons why it has been rejected. These reasons may include the following:

  • That the proposed training or study is not applicable or relevant to the role being undertaken

  • That the proposed training or study would not improve the employee’s effectiveness

  • That they are unable to reorganise the work amongst the existing staff

  •  That due to their absence for study or training there would be a detrimental effect on the quality of the work

  • That if the request were granted it would have a detrimental effect on the employee’s ability to meet customer demand

  • That if the request were granted there would be a conflict with planned structural change

If the request is granted what obligations are placed on the employer?

  • If the request is granted the employer will be obliged to allow the flexible working hours in order to adhere to the request.

  • It will not be an obligation on the employer, however, to meet the required salary or training costs of the employee.

What is the process in order to make this request time off for training?

Initially the employee must start the process for a request for time off by making a request to their employer. This request must be a valid request stating the required reasons as stated above.

Once the employer has received the request they must do one of the following within 28 days of receiving it:

  • Accept the request

  • Arrange a meeting with the employee making the request

An employer therefore cannot immediately dismiss the request before holding a meeting with the employee.

The procedure is a similar procedure for the right to request flexible working as the legislation was firmly based on this. Accordingly the procedure is as follows:

  • The employee may be accompanied to the meeting by a union representative or another colleague

  • If the request is refused the employee will be provided with a right to an appeal

  • Following the meeting the employer must make the decision to accept or refuse the time off for training request within 14 days

  • It is acceptable under the legislation for an employer to partially accept a request