The last Labour government introduced the Time to Train scheme which enabled any employee with more than 26 weeks service to request time off work to undertake training of any sort. Whilst on the surface that seems reasonable in practice the new right raised a lot of issues not the least being the fear that if a request was declined it could result in an employee leaving and claiming constructive dismissal.

At the very least it was clear that in order to comply with their legal obligations a heavy burden of red tape would fall on businesses who did not have to agree to allow the time off but who did have to follow a strict procedure and give acceptable reasons for declining any request. A costly exercise in any event with the prospect of being even more costly if they got it wrong and were challenged.

Despite vociferous concern from business organisations the scheme came into effect on 1st April 2010 but only for businesses with 250 or more employees. However, the legislation also proposed that the scheme would be extended to all businesses irrespective or how many employees one had with effect from 1st April 2011.

Following the defeat of the Labour government in May 2010 the new Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government made an early announcement that they would review the scheme and invited representations from businesses and business organisations. That consultation process ended yesterday.

The review of Time to Train will be a major test of the Government’s declared determination to reduce business regulation. If the Government does not opt for complete repeal, employers will immediately question the true degree of its commitment to that agenda.

The right to request time off for training is an unnecessary, poorly thought-through and badly designed regulation which not only imposes significantly underestimated costs on employers, but will undermine existing good practice in the planning and delivery of workplace training. For example there is no requirement for the training to be undertaken to have any relevance to the needs of the employer.

There is no denying the need for businesses to take training much more seriously than most currently do. As usual in a recession the training budget is one of the first to be cut when in my view the opposite should be true. However, Time to Train is an outstandingly bad policy, defective from conception to implementation. It clearly demonstrates the way in which governments all too often  legislate on the premise that “something must be done” rather than thinking things through properly

Time to Train won’t just fail to work as planned – it will cause considerable damage and the only  way of addressing this problem is to repeal the legislation completely.

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