Time off for training

Employees who have at least 26 weeks’ continuous service with the University have the statutory right to request time off for training. The statutory right states that the purpose of the training should be to improve “the employee’s effectiveness in the employer’s business” and “the performance of the employer’s business”. There is no obligation to grant paid time off, or to pay for the costs of any training but employees have the right to have eligible requests considered within set timescales, and to appeal if the application is rejected.

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The University offers its staff a wide range of training opportunities. Many departments have their own local arrangements in place for reviewing staff training needs, which might be part of the annual Personal Development Review process, or ad hoc responses to training needs as and when they arise, which are simply facilitated through normal lines of communication between staff and their line-managers. Since the primary focus of the “time to train” entitlement is to encourage discussion and agreement between employers and employees about relevant training, by and large these arrangements can continue.

Since April 6 2010, all employees who have at least 26 weeks’ continuous service have the right to request time off for training. This was introduced under the Apprenticeship, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009, and incorporated into the Employment Rights Act 1996.

The new arrangements cover all training requested which is considered likely to improve “the employee’s effectiveness in the employer’s business” and “the performance of the employer’s business”.

The Time for Training regulations give employers certain duties: in particular there are statutory timescales for responding to requests made under the scheme. Departments which have appropriate procedures or lines of dialogue in place for staff to request training, and for line-managers to consider and respond to such requests promptly, are not required to make any specific changes to their practice. In such cases it is sufficient to ensure that line-managers are aware of the employee’s statutory right, and the associated required response requirement, so that any formal requests that are received may be responded to in line with the regulations. 

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The right to request time off for training follows the same model used for considering requests for flexible working:

(i) the employee must initiate the request in writing; in order for the request for ‘time to train’ to be a valid request, covered by the legislation, it must be submitted in writing  (in any format) and contain specific information which is detailed under “Requests/Applications” below

(ii) except where an application is going to be approved in full a meeting should be held with the staff member to discuss the application before a decision is reached

(iii) there is no obligation to grant paid time off, or pay for the costs of any training: the employer may grant unpaid time for training, or arrange for the employee to make up the time

(iv) requests may refused on business grounds

(v) applicants must receive a written response within 28 days of receipt of the application (or if a meeting is held, within 14 days of the date of the meeting

(vi) if an application is rejected employees have 14 days in which to appeal

Eligibility

All staff who have at least 26 weeks’ continuous employment with the University.

Requirements of the scheme

To be covered by the Employment Rights Act requirements, time off for training requests must:   

  • be made in writing (any written form)
  • be dated
  • include a statement that the application is made “under section 63F of the Employment Right Act 1996”
  • describe the subject matter of the proposal training
  • explain where and when the training would take place
  • state who would provide or supervise the training
  • confirm what qualification (if any) the training would lead to
  • explain how the employee thinks the training would improve their effectiveness at work, and the performance of their department or equivalent
  • give the date and method of the last application that they have made (if any)

How many applications can an individual make?

Employees may make one formal request, as outlined above, in any twelve month period but each application may request more than one type of training.

What sort of training can be requested?

The individual should believe that the training will improve their effectiveness at work, and therefore the training should be work-related. This might include an accredited programme which leads to a formal qualification, or unaccredited skills-related training. The training can take place anywhere (including outside the UK) and be of any length, and individuals may request more than one type of training in a single request.

What happens if the individual withdraws the request or the agreed training is cancelled?

An employee may withdraw a request, or may be unable to take up a training opportunity for reasons beyond their control. In such cases you should consider any additional requests as though the original request had not been made.

What about the requests for training which have not been made in the prescribed format?

Requests made through usual departmental channels (for example, arising from a discussion between individuals and their line manager at a PDR) should continue to be dealt with through normal departmental procedures. Only requests received in the format outlined above should be responded to through the formal routes outlined in these pages.

If an individual makes a formal ‘time off for training’ application but the application does not meet all the criteria of the scheme, you should explain to the applicant how the application falls short and allow them to re-submit their application.

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Where line managers consider that the training is likely to improve the individual’s performance in their post, or improve the performance of the departments or section, departments may consider covering the costs of the training, including allowing the time required to undertake the course as paid time.

However under the “time off for training” scheme there is no automatic right to be paid for the time spent training, or for the costs of the training to be covered.

In some cases it may be more appropriate to grant unpaid leave or to agree that the time will be made up within an agreed period, and for the individual to fund their own training programme.

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Considering applications

Requests made outside the scheme through normal departmental channels should continue to be dealt with according to normal departmental procedures.

Any requests that are received which meet the eligibility criteria set out under “Requests/Applications” above must be responded to in writing within 28 days (if the person who would normally deal with such a request is on leave then the 28 day period begins when they return from leave as long as the leave period is no longer than 28 days).

Where the request is to be approved pro-forma TT1 may be used

If the request is unclear then line managers may ask to meet with the individual to discuss the request (see pro-forma letter TT2). Meetings must be followed up with a written outcome within 14 days.

Unless you intend to approve the request in full, you should meet with the employee to discuss the request before reaching a decision and confirming it in writing to the employee. The employee will have the right to be accompanied by a colleague from within the University or a trade union representative (see pro-forma letter TT2).

Refusing applications

Where it is not possible to accommodate a request, you must inform the employee of your decision in writing (see pro-forma letter TT3), setting out:

  • the reason for turning down the request (see below)
  • why the reasons(s) apply in their circumstances
  • the right of appeal

The refusal must be made for one of the following reasons, which should be described in the letter of refusal:

  • the proposed study or training would not improve the individual’s effectiveness in their current role
  • the proposed study or training would not improve the performance of the department, or would have a detrimental impact on performance
  • the burden of the additional costs involved would be too great
  • the proposed study or training would have a detrimental effect on the department/section’s  ability to meet customer demand
  • it would not be possible to reorganise work amongst the individual’s colleagues or recruit additional staff to cover the absence
  • if the requested training would involve a change to working hours and there would be insufficient work for the individual to do during the periods they propose to work
  • there are planned structural changes during the proposed study or training period

In some cases although it may not be possible to accommodate all aspects of a request for training, departments may wish to suggest that the training need is met in an alternative way, for example suggesting some in-house training in place of an external course. In such cases it will be important to meet with the individual and at such meetings the employee should be given the opportunity to be accompanied by a work colleague or trade union representative. Meetings should be followed up in writing within 14 days.

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An employee has the right to appeal against a decision, and must do so within 14 days of notification of the decision refusing part or all of the request. The employee must set out the grounds for the appeal.

The department must act within 14 days of receipt of the appeal. If you do not accept the appeal, you must arrange an appeal meeting within 14 days of receipt of the appeal. If it is practicable, the appeal should be heard by a different person from the person who considered the initial request. The employee will have the right to be accompanied at the meeting by a colleague from within the University or a trade union representative.

You must inform the employee in writing of the outcome of the appeal within 14 days of the meeting.

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