Government rules out right to request training in SMEs

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The Government has ruled out extending the right for employees to make requests in relation to study or training to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) until at least April 2015.

Under legislation passed by the previous Labour government, staff in companies with fewer than 250 employees would have been entitled to the same rights as those in larger organisations from April 2011 but this was put on hold by the coalition Government when it came to power in June 2010.

The subsequent consultation revealed a split among employers, professional bodies, trade unions and individuals over whether or not to extend the right, with 77% of smaller companies opposing the idea.

“Several representative bodies commented that in larger organisations there is a greater likelihood of dedicated functionality and resource to deal with personnel and training issues,” read the report.

“Smaller organisations, without dedicated HR functions, could be more challenged to deal easily and consistently with requests submitted using the right.”

The consultation ruled out making changes to the way in which the right functions and revealed little appetite for merely delaying the extension of the right to smaller businesses until economic conditions improve.

In its response to the consultation, the Federation of Small Businesses said: “Government should focus on promoting training rather than regulating on it. Businesses need to be socially aware of the benefits that training can bring to a business’ competitiveness.

“The additional costs [of compliance] would be overly burdensome for a small business and might lead them to reconsider employing staff at a time when government is looking for the private sector to lead the recovery.”

The Government pledged to continue offering the right to organisations with more than 250 employees but said this would also be kept under review until 2015.

Only 36% of respondents to the consultation were in favour of scrapping the legislation entirely but this rose to 49% among employers and 61% of small businesses.

Research by XpertHR released earlier this week found that just 12% of HR directors believe that the legislation has had a positive effect on training in their organisation, with 57% saying that they thought it “irrelevant”.

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