When can you ask your employer for time off work to study or train?

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If you work for an employer with 250 or more employees, you may be able to take time off to study or train if it will help you do your job better. Find out how it works.

What rights do you have if you want to take time off to study or train?

You have the right to ask you employer to let you have time off to study or train if you’re based in England, Wales or Scotland and:

  • You are an employee
  • Your employer employs 250 people or more
  • You have worked for your employer for six months (26 weeks) or more and
  • The study or training should help you do your job better.

SAVVY TIP: If you’re a temp or agency worker, a freelancer, you’re of school age, you’re aged between 16 and 18 and waiting to go to university or college or you’re in the armed forces, you can’t ask for time off to study or train.

Types of training you can get time off for

The type of training you can take time off for is quite varied. It can be:

  • Accredited. Training that will lead to a recognised qualification.
  • Unaccredited. Training to help you develop particular skills.
  • Related to your current or possible future roles. Training does not have to be directly related to an area of work you’re currently involved in. It can be something that would help you to progress in a different area of the business.
  • Delivered in a variety of locations. The training can be at your workplace, at home or even abroad.
  • As long or as short as is needed. There is no limit on the amount of time you can ask for.

SAVVY TIP: Your employer doesn’t have to pay a penny towards the costs of training although they can do so if they wish.

Asking for time off

If you want to make a time off to train request, it’s important to know what you and your employer are expected to do. You can make a time off to train request once a year. If your employer has its own rules on how to apply, you must follow those. Otherwise you should follow this procedure. The starting point is that your request must be in writing (an email is fine) and must be dated.

What should I include?

You must include certain information with your request:

  • That it’s a request under ‘Section 63D of Employment Rights Act 1996’
  • What you want to study or train for
  • Where and when it will take place
  • What qualification it would lead to (if any)
  • Who will provide the training
  • Whether you have applied for time off for training before and, if so, when
  • How it would improve your performance at work and help your employer’s business.

SAVVY TIP: If you don’t include this information, your request can be turned down. However, if it’s turned down for this reason you should be allowed to add in the missing information without having to wait for another 12 months (as normally you can only make one request a year).

What your employer must do

Once your application has been made, your employer has 28 days to consider it. After that they must make a decision. They must either:

  • Agree to the request and tell you this in writing.

SAVVY TIP: Your employer doesn’t have to agree to your request and they can make changes, such as suggesting another course or delivering the training in house rather than externally if that’s what you’d requested.

  • Ask for a meeting to discuss it with you. In which case they must tell you their decision within 14 days of the meeting.

Why your request could be turned down

Your employer can only turn down your request for one of around half a dozen different business reasons, such as:

  1. The training wouldn’t improve your performance at work;
  2. The additional costs would be too high;
  3. They wouldn’t be able to function properly as a business;
  4. They can’t reorganise your work among extra staff;
  5. They can’t recruit extra staff.

If your employer turns you down

If your employer refuses to let you have time off to study or train you can appeal against the decision. You must submit your appeal within 14 days of your employer turning you down and you must make your appeal in writing. Don’t forget to date your appeal letter or email and include information about why you are appealing the decision.

Your employer then must arrange a meeting with you within 14 days of receiving the appeal notice and, after the meeting, it must let you know what its decision is in writing within 14 days of the meeting.

SAVVY TIP: If you don’t agree with the decision after you’ve gone to appeal, you can contact ACAS for free help and advice on the phone.

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