Last year in England, Wales and Scotland certain employees were granted the right to ask for time off for study or training. This right is only for businesses with 250 employees or more.
There are no current plans to extend this to Northern Ireland or allow the right to extend to smaller businesses.
The current position in Northern Ireland on who is entitled to time off for training only applies to certain young people. Young People who have not achieved a certain standard in education or training are entitled to reasonable paid time off work for study or training.
This right applies to employees who are aged 16 or 17, who are not receiving full time secondary or further education and who have not achieved a certain standard of education or training. Where an 18 year old employee has already begun a course of study or training which will lead to a specific standard of education, before they became 18, they will have the same right as a 16 or 17 year old to time off for study or training.
In broad terms the standard of education to which the right refers equates to five GCSEs at grades A* to C or an Intermediate level GNVQ or a level 2 National Vocational Qualification (NVQ). Certain other educational qualifications also meet the standard.
The purpose of the time off is to undertake study or training which would enable the attainment of the above standard and would be likely to enhance the employee’s employment prospects.
The amount of time that a young person may be entitled to is not specified in the legislation but should be reasonable and this will often vary depending on the employee’s particular employment circumstances. However the legislation does say that the amount of time that may be taken off should be reasonable with regards to:
- the requirements of the employee’s study or training; and
- the employer’s circumstances and the likely effect of the employees time off on the running of the business.
In some cases it may be reasonable that the study or training is undertaken in the workplace on the job, with a training provider, with another employer, at a college or a combination of these. The study or training could be spread throughout the working week, done on part-time day release basis or on block release or in any other way that is reasonable.
A young person who is entitled to time off should be paid at the young person’s normal rate of pay.
If an employer unreasonably refuses to allow the employee to take time off or the employee does not receive the correct rate of pay during this time they may complain to an Industrial Tribunal within three months of the date on which the time off was taken or should have been allowed, although it should be noted that it would be considered good practice to have first raised a grievance in writing with their employer.
Further information is available from your local CAB or on the Department for Employment and Learning website at delni.gov.uk. Guidance on holiday leave and pay can be found on www.nidirect.gov.uk if you are an employee or worker and www.nibusinessinfo.co.uk if you are an employer