Law guide: Workplace

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Time off for study or training (England, Wales and Scotland only)

Time off for study or training (England, Wales and Scotland only)

In England, Wales and Scotland, eligible employees will have the right to request time off work to undertake study and/or training where their employers employ 250 or more employees.

Who qualifies for the right?

You will qualify for the right if you:

  • Have worked for your employer for a continuous period of 26 weeks at the date of your request
  • Have not made an earlier request under the right during the past 12 months (subject to a right to have an earlier application ignored in certain circumstances - see below)
  • Are not an agency worker, a member of the armed forces, a young person of compulsory school leaving age (or 'school age' in Scotland), a 16 or 17 year old who is already under a duty to participate in education or training as a result of Part 1 of the Education and Skills Act 2008, an 18 year old who is treated as if Part 1 of the Education and Skills Act 2008 applies to them or a young employee who already has a statutory right to paid time off to undertake study or training (under section 63A of the Employment Rights Act 1996)

The type of training or study

There are no restrictions on the type of training or studies that you can apply for, although you will need to demonstrate that it will improve your effectiveness at work and that it will also improve the performance of your employer's business.

There is also no limit on the amount of time or the amount of study or training that you can request. You can ask to undertake more than one piece of training in a single request for time to train.

The studies or training may be:

  • Undertaken on your employer's premises or elsewhere, including at your home
  • Delivered whilst you are performing your employment duties or separately
  • Provided or supervised by your employer, a local college or training provider
  • Undertaken without supervision
  • Undertaken within or outside the UK

Payment for the training and for time spent training

Subject to the terms of your employment contract, you will not have the right to be paid for the time spent whilst you are training and/or studying.

Your options may include working flexibly to make up the time or taking unpaid time off.

Your employer is not obliged to pay for the cost of the training/study course.

The procedure

Making your request

You should make your request in writing, ensuring that it is dated and states that it is being made under 'section 63D of the Employment Rights Act 1996'.

If you have previously submitted a request for study or training, your request must also provide the date when this last request was submitted and how it was delivered. You must also include the following details of the proposed study or training course:

  • Its subject matter
  • Where and when it will take place
  • Who will provide or supervise it
  • What qualification you would obtain (if any)
  • How you think it would improve your effectiveness in your job/role and the performance of your employer

The employer's response

Within 28 days of receiving your request, your employer should either:

  • Notify you in writing that they agree to your request
  • Notify you in writing if they consider the request to be invalid, giving reasons for their decision
  • Notify you in writing if they require additional information from you so that they can give your request proper consideration
  • Hold a meeting (after receiving any additional information, if requested) with you to discuss the contents of your request

Your employer must then notify you of their decision in writing within 14 days of the meeting.

How many applications can I make?

You can only make an application once every 12 months to undertake study or training. However, your employer must ignore this requirement and allow you to make an additional request within the same 12-month period if, at the time of making the current request, you have notified them that you want to withdraw it because you:

  • Mistakenly submitted an earlier application before 12 months elapsed.
  • Did not start the study and/or training course which was previously agreed because the training was cancelled by either your employer, the institute undertaking the course, some other provider or facilitator or the person who was supervising it. This cannot be relied upon if it was cancelled because of your conduct in relation to the study or training.
  • Did not start the study and or training course because of some unforeseen circumstance beyond your control.

Withdrawing a request

You may withdraw your request, either orally or in writing, at any time before you have been notified of your employer's decision. If you make an oral request to withdraw, your employer must confirm it in writing to you.

If you withdraw your request, it will still count as a request for the purposes of calculating the number of requests within the previous 12-month period.

Withdrawing an agreement

An employer may attempt to foresee circumstances which may require them to later withdraw an agreement, if your request is accepted. If your employer wants to make the agreement conditional on certain events occurring (or not occurring), this should be agreed with you and confirmed in writing.

An example may be that the training you have requested would be useful to undertake as it will improve part of the services that your employer is providing to a particular client. However, your employer might agree to the training on the condition that it still retains that client.

Grounds for refusal

If you are eligible for the right to request time off to undertake study or training, it is important to note that this is a right to request, not necessarily a right to receive, time off work for study or training.

Your employer may refuse all or part of your request for time to study or undertake training on one or more of the following grounds:

  • It would not improve the your effectiveness in the business
  • It would not improve the performance of the business
  • The burden of the additional costs would be too high
  • It will have a detrimental effect on your employer's ability to meet customer demand
  • It will have a detrimental impact on quality
  • It will have a detrimental impact on performance
  • Your employer will be unable to reorganise work amongst existing staff
  • Your employer will be unable to recruit additional staff
  • There will be an insufficient amount of work during the periods you propose to work
  • There are planned structural changes during the proposed study or training period

Your employer's decision

Accepting a request

If your request is accepted, your employer must write to you stating:

  • Details of the subject matter of the study or training
  • Where and when it will take place
  • Who will provide or supervise it
  • What qualification it will lead to (if any)
  • Whether or not you will be paid whilst undertaking the agreed study or training
  • Who will be responsible for its direct costs
  • Details of any required changes to your working hours

If only part of your request is accepted, your employer must write to you stating which part of the request is agreed and provide the same information in respect of the agreed part.

If, as a result of your discussions with your employer, an agreement is reached to meet your study or training request which is different (in whole or in part) to the details set out your request, then your employer must write to you confirming the details of the agreement. Your employer is also under an obligation to provide you with written evidence that you have agreed to the terms of the agreement. This will usually mean that your employer will write the details of the agreement by hand at your meeting and ask you to sign it, so that they have complied with their obligation.

Refusing a request

If your request is refused, your employer must write to you identifying the statutory grounds for refusal, explaining why they think the grounds apply in the circumstances and, where applicable, confirm the internal appeal procedures.

If only part of your request is refused, your employer must write to you stating which part of the request is rejected and provide the same information in respect of the rejected part.

Appealing a decision

You can appeal against a refusal within 14 days of receipt of a rejection letter.

Within 14 days of receipt of your appeal letter, your employer must either notify you in writing that your appeal has been successful or hold a meeting with you to discuss the appeal.

Within 14 days of the appeal hearing, your employer must write to you informing you of the outcome of the appeal.

The timescales mentioned above can be extended by agreement.

Appeal meeting

If you appeal the decision, your employer may hold a meeting to discuss your appeal. You are entitled to be accompanied at such a meeting by a work colleague or a trade union representative who is currently employed by your employer.

The companion can address the meeting and confer with you during it, but may not answer questions independently of you.

The meeting should take place at a time and location that is convenient for you and your employer.

If your companion is unable to attend the meeting, you can request it to be rearranged at a mutually convenient time for all attendees, which should be no later than seven days after the date originally proposed for the meeting.

It is important that you attend any meetings that your employer arranges to discuss your appeal. Your employer is entitled to regard your request as withdrawn if you fail to attend a meeting to discuss your request or appeal on more than one occasion, without reasonable cause.

Complaints to an employment tribunal

You may only make a complaint to an employment tribunal where either:

  • The decision to reject your request was based on incorrect facts (although this issue should first be covered in an appeal)
  • Your employer failed to follow the correct procedure

An employment tribunal does not have power to question your employer's business reasons for refusing a request, but it can examine the facts on which the business reason is based to see if they are correct. However, if you make a complaint jointly with other legislation, such as discrimination legislation, the employment tribunal may examine how the request was considered.

Your duties after a request has been agreed

You must inform your employer in writing if you:

  • Fail to start or complete the study or training course
  • Undertake or propose to undertake any studies or training that differs from what you agreed with your employer (as specified in your employer's correspondence to you notifying you that they have accepted your request)

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