From education to employment

Employees’ right to take time off to train

From tomorrow (April 6) employees will have the right to ask their boss for time off work for training and, according to a poll commissioned by unionlearn, over two-fifths say they would be likely to do so. This includes a third of employees who say that they currently receive no training.

This is good news. The new right will be a useful tool to help many more employees to get a hearing from their employer about improving their skills. The government has estimated that up to a million workers may get new training opportunities, in the next three years, as a result.

What is very interesting is that almost two-thirds (60 per cent) of young people say they are likely to take up the new right. Employees can ask time off for training leading to qualifications or to develop skills relevant to their job. This could include, for example, courses such as English for Speakers of Other Languages. Under the law, employers will be able to turn down such a request only when there is a sound business reason.

It is important that the unions, colleges and the FE sector works with employers to foster a culture where training and learning is valued in the workplace. The similar right to request flexible working resulted in millions of employees making requests with over 90 per cent being agreed by employers. Knowing that they have the right to ask will encourage millions of employees, putting pressure on employers who do not train to think again and helping all employees get a fair chance to improve their skills.

The poll accompanies a new TUC report – Right to Training is on the Right Track – which finds that the people most in need of help to improve their skills are the least likely to get it. Its analysis, using latest data from the Government’s Labour Force Survey, found that fewer than 1 in 10 employees without a qualification are offered regular training and this trend has actually deteriorated slightly over the past decade. Interestingly, the proportion having access to regular training at work remained stable, at 28 per cent, during the recession. But, overall, since 2000, there has been a significant decline in the proportion of young employees benefiting, down from 36 per cent to 31 per cent.

A regional breakdown in trends shows that access to regular training is significantly lower in Northern Ireland (21 per cent) compared to other parts of the UK. The highest levels of training are found in Wales (32 per cent).

So why is it so important? While last month’s first National Strategic Skills Audit by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills found that there is an unprecedented increase in the number of people with qualifications, it said that the number of people reported as ‘not fully proficient’ at their jobs has increased by 400,000 from 1.3 million in 2005 to 1.7 million in 2009. And, it found, there are still serious skills shortages, particularly in high-level and technical skills and leadership. At the other end of the spectrum, there are far too many people without the basic skills needed as a first step career progression

So if you or your colleagues believe they have a case for more training, remember, all you have to do is ask.

Tom Wilson is director of unionlearn, the TUC’s learning and training organisation

Read other FE News articles by Tom Wilson:

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