Although we know that you are committed to developing the skills and knowledge of your employees, we understand that this will be subject to the needs of your school, as well as operational and budgetary considerations.
The procedures that should be followed are not always clear, specifically in regards to whether employees should be paid for time taken off for training and study. This article will outline what you need to know as a school employer.
Firstly, it is important to get to grips with who is eligible to take time off for training and study.
Employees have a right to request time off for study and, as an employer, you have a duty to consider it and respond accordingly.
Legal entitlement depends on if there are at least 250 people in your school, academy or multi-academy trust and if the individual in question:
- Is classed as an employee
- Has worked for you for at least 26 weeks
- Will be able to do their job more effectively as a result
Employees not entitled to take time off include:
- Those of compulsory school age
- Young people who already have the right to take paid time off for study or training
- If the individual is aged 16 to 18 and is already expected to take part in education or training.
Employees can also only make one request per year.
However, you should clearly set out all your eligibility requirements in your school’s policy on applications for time off for training or study.
Making a request
Procedures that employees should follow when making a formal request for time off should also be set out in your school’s policy on time off for training or study.
If you do not have a policy in place, employees should write to you stating that they are making a request under 'Section 63D of the Employment Rights Act 1996’ and provide the following details:
- The subject matter of the study or training
- Who will be providing the training
- Date(s) outlining where and when it will take place
- If applicable, the name of the qualification they are working towards
- A description of why they think this study or training will help them to do their job more effectively and benefit your school
- Dates of any previous applications
If an employee does not include all of this information, you do not have to consider their request.
It is also the responsibility of the employee to inform you if they do not start or finish the agreed training or study, or if they do, or plan to do, a different course than the one previously approved.
Legally, you do not have to pay for time taken off for study or training. However, in some cases, you may choose to pay for some or all the time off, and the same rules also apply to associated costs, e.g. travel expenses.
You have 28 days to accept the employees’ request or hold a meeting with them to discuss their application.
The employee is entitled to postpone the meeting in the event of them being unavailable. They can also bring a trade union representative or colleague with them to the meeting.
Following the meeting, you have 14 days to decide on their request, unless the employee agrees in writing to extend this time.
In circumstances where you accept the application without the need for a meeting, you should return a copy of the signed form to the employee and retain the original on their personnel file.
Though this should also be set out in your policy, you may choose to reject a request for any of the following reasons:
- If, in your view, the proposed study or training would not improve their effectiveness at work and the performance of your school
- The burden of additional costs
- The detrimental effect on the ability to meet the demands of the school community
- Inability to reorganise work among existing employees or recruit additional employees
- Adverse impact on quality and performance
- Insufficiency of work during the periods that you propose to work
- Planned structural changes
An employee has the right to appeal your decision if you refuse the request for time off for training or study.
Legally, the appeal must be made within 14 days of your decision and be written, dated and set out why they are appealing.
However, outline your appeals procedures in your school’s policy, e.g. you may wish for employees to send in their appeal within five days of the receipt of the written notice of your decision.