The Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009 (the “Act”), the main provisions of which come into force for businesses with 250 or more employees in April 2010, will give certain qualifying employees the right to request time off from work to train or study. The new right aims to assist economic recovery by enhancing individuals’ skills and employability. Employers who agree to requests are not obliged to pay salary for or to meet the cost of any courses, although some may wish to do so on a voluntary basis.
Qualifying employees and applicable procedure
The new right will allow a qualifying employee to request time off to train or study to improve their work related skills and therefore the performance of their employer’s business. However, only employees with more than 26 weeks’ continuous service can request time off and an employee may only apply for time off once every 12 months.
The application procedure for the new scheme will be similar to that for current flexible working applications. Employers must seriously consider all applications but may reject an application for specified business reasons or where, in the employer’s view, the training would not improve the employee’s effectiveness at work or the performance of its business. Those who qualify for the new right will be protected from being subjected to detriment and/or dismissal following a request for time off.
The Department for Business Innovation and Skills has issued guidance notes on the new right for both employers and employees. These contain details of the new right, together with further information on the qualifying criteria, the procedure and consequences of non-compliance and the permissible grounds for rejecting applications from employees for time off.
The Act will amend the Employment Rights Act 1996. The new right will apply initially only to organisations with 250 or more employees from 6 April 2010 but will be extended to employees in all businesses from 6 April 2011.
The regulations bringing the right to request time off into force were put before Parliament on 4 February 2010 (see link in Resources below).
Guidance for employers and employees on the right to time off to train
For further information or to discuss the issues raised, please contact Colina Greenway (firstname.lastname@example.org) on +44 (0) 203 051 5711.