Training rights

Thanks to a new Bill in the Queen’s Speech, employees are set to benefit from a new right to request time at work to undertake training.

The Bill will give employees the right to request relevant training they need to improve their skills and to have these requests properly considered by their employer.

Ministers believe such a measure will ensure British businesses and individuals get the skills they need to emerge stronger after the economic downturn.

In England, the government will support the new right by its increased investment in adult skills, which is expected to top £4.5bn by 2009/10, including an expansion of Train to Gain to over £1bn by 2010/11.

Skills secretary John Denham, who led the initiative, argued the legislation will give many workers their first proper chance to have a serious discussion with their managers about their training needs. Research suggests that currently one third of employers do not train their staff and eight million received no kind of training last year.

But ministers are also determined to ensure that the new right will not be a burden to business. The proposals should fit with what the best employers are already doing while encouraging others to follow those good examples.

Under the new measure, requests could be to undertake accredited courses that lead to a qualification or for unaccredited training. Employers would be required to consider seriously the requests they receive, using the same sort of processes they have in place to manage requests for flexible working. The right relates to skills that are relevant to the employee’s job. The right will encourage more employers to organise good employee review processes in which training needs are discussed.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: ‘If the UK is to compete internationally as a highly-skilled economy, many more workers will need high-quality training. The new right to request time to train will help millions of workers access the skills they need to fulfil their potential and will also promote a wider dialogue on training in our workplaces.’