Right to request time off for training gets cautious welcome

Government plans to give employees the right to seek time off for training, outlined in the Queen’s Speech yesterday, have been broadly welcomed by employers.

The Children, Skills and Learning Bill will be put before Parliament next year and will include provisions to give workers the right to request time off work for training.

The CBI’s deputy director general, John Cridland, said: “Employers invest £39bn every year in staff training and regularly discuss skills and training needs with their employees.

“The right to request training will build on this existing good practice, but the proposals must ensure employers only accept requests for business-relevant training, to help build a stronger skills base and a more competitive economy.”

Chartered Management Institute policy and research director Petra Wilton said: “We are delighted that the government has responded to the need to encourage investment in skills. Clearly there is an urgent need to increase levels of skills training, particularly those associated with leadership and management, and we believe the Bill will have a positive effect.

“Our most recent survey shows that 64% of employers consider this new right-to-request will increase training levels, with nearly 60% agreeing that it will improve employee motivation.”

But the Federation of Small Businesses was more cautious. It said: “enshrining the right for employees to request time to undertake training which could cause administrative problems for small employers.”

It’s likely that lerning and development professionals will welcome the right – 67% of 267 specialists polled by the World of Learning exhibition and conference organisers said they wanted legislation to give employees an entitlement to time off for learning.

Kristine Scott, employment solicitor at law firm Rickerbys, pointed out that employers will still hold the whip-hand: “For the employer, the individual does not have to be paid while they attend the training and they have the right to refuse the request if the training does not benefit the business.

“Nevertheless the final proposal in the Bill, although watered down from the original, should be seen as positive for both employee and employer.”

As for the CIPD, chief executive Jackie Orme, said: “We welcome the proposal to introduce a right to request time off for training. The light-touch right-to-request approach has worked well with flexible working for both employers and employees.

“However it is important that we do not lose sight of the fact that training is a two-way street. It is of benefit to the learner, but must also contribute to meeting the business needs of the employer. If this test is not met, the employer must be able to decline requests for training.

“It is crucial in this economic downturn that organisations invest in training. Those that upskill their workforce during the tough times will come out stronger and more competitive when the economy picks up.”

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