International Safety: UK Workers and the Right to Request Time to Train

Millions of UK workers are set to benefit from a proposal that would grant them right to request time to train. The measure is aimed at employers who offer no training for employees.


The details of how up to 22 million workers in England will be able to use the new legal right to request time to train were outlined recently by John Denham, secretary of state for Innovation, Universities and Skills.

Publishing a consultation into how the new right will work, Denham said he expects around 300,000 people a year to receive skills training who otherwise would not as a result of the legislation, which could be in place by 2010 if passed by Parliament.

According to Denham, one-third of employers do not train their employees and 8 million employees receive no kind of training at all every year. The hope is that by granting the legal right to request time to train, legislators will help ensure that training is taken seriously by all employers.

“Over the past 10 years, the government has built a strong and stable economy, but today we face international challenges affecting the economy as a whole and the lives of millions of people,” said Denham. “"Investment by government and employers in education and training has played a large part in building economic success in recent years.”

Investing in worker education and skills “is key to ensuring we come through with a stronger economy and making sure individuals can make the most of their abilities,” Denham added.

He pointed out that employers who do not train “run real risks with their businesses.”

“We need to find new ways to bring the drive for skills into every workplace and to every worker, which is why we are consulting on a new right for workers to request time to train.”

The regulation will apply to all employees who have worked for their employer for 26 weeks. The government has proposed that requests for training should be treated in a similar way to those for flexible work hours, which, since its introduction in 2003, has been beneficial to both employees and employers.

Spending by employers on training is rising and estimated at some £38.6 billion a year. The major source of government funding available to businesses that want to offer education and skills training to employees is the Train to Gain program. The money available annually through the program will rise to more than £1 billion a year by 2010.

The government plans to spend over £3 billion on skills and training in 2007-08. This will rise to £3.6 billion by 2010.

Employees could request to take accredited programs leading to a qualification, or could request unaccredited training to help them develop a specific skill relevant to their job. In both cases, the only requirement would be that training should help improve business performance and productivity.

Employers would be required to seriously consider the requests they receive, using the same sort of processes they have in place to manage requests for flexible working hours. Employers will not be required to grant a request; they could turn down such requests if there was a good business reason to do so, such as they did not feel that the training would help improve business performance.

Employers and workers have until Sept. 10 to comment on the proposed legislation.

The draft legislation is available at
http://www.commonsleader.gov.uk/output/page2391.asp.

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