Right to request time off for training limited to large employers

The government has announced that it will not be proceeding with plans to extend the right for employees to ask for time off for training to all employers in April 2011 as planned.

The right to ask for time off for training applies to employees with 26 weeks continuous service. This right is similar to that of parents seeking flexible working arrangements and involves the employee asking for a change to their working hours in order to allow the employee to undertake training, such as requesting a reduced working week to attend a training course or an earlier finish time to attend an evening course.

The right to request time off for training is not an absolute one and applies only to training that will assist the employee to be more productive and effective at work and to help the employer improve productivity and business performance. There is also no right to be paid for this time off and the employer has a fairly wide right to refuse the request if it is considered to be detrimental to the business. Acceptable reasons for such a refusal include:

  • a view that the training will not have the required purpose,
  • that the time off will cause additional costs or organisational issues for the company, or 
  • that it will have a detrimental impact on customer needs or employee performance.

This right currently applies only to employees of organisations with 250 or more staff and this right will continue. However, BIS has now announced that the planned extension of this right to all employers whether or not they employ 250 employees has been delayed to allow for further evaluation, scrutiny, and discussion. No new date has been published.