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BIS announce employees’ rights to training

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) has introduced a new right for employees that from April 6 will allow them to request time off work to undertake training.

Under the guidelines, detailed in last week’s Time to Train publication, 11 million British employees will have the right to ask for time off work to participate in training that will improve personal and business performance. This can include any training that leads directly to a qualification, training to develop a specific skill or that is particular to a type of business or workplace or more general skills courses such as languages.

The flexibility of the guidelines is reflected in the fact that any such training can be undertaken in the workplace, at home or elsewhere and can be provided either directly by an employer or any college or training provider in the UK and beyond. Whilst employers retain the right to deny any such requests, there must be a pertinent business reason for doing so.

The announcement was welcomed by the Association of Learning Providers (ALP) as a potentially powerful new measure when Skills Accounts are rolled out in the autumn.

“If employees become quickly aware of the vouchers attached to the accounts and then are able to top them up with their own and employer financial contributions, we could see a healthy demand for training maintained among the adult workforce when budgets for mainstream programmes like Train to Gain are being squeezed,” said an ALP spokesman.

The Association of Colleges (AoC) issued a more cautious response to the BIS move, saying: “Further Education colleges play an active role locally in providing training to employees, both in conjunction with their employer and as part of an individual’s own lifelong learning. However, it remains to be seen whether, at a time when the college sector is facing stringent budget cuts, the funding will be in place to support Time to Train and what flexibility there will be over course choices.”

At present, employees must have worked for 26 weeks to be eligible for this right, which is also only applicable to employees working in businesses of 250 or more people.

Alex Beattie

(Pictured: Lord Mandelson, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills)

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