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Government outlines plans for employee rights to request training

16 May 2008

Asset Skills is supporting new plans outlined by the Government to improve training and skills in the facilities management industry. The proposals include a new legal right for employees to ask for time out to train, and legislation to strengthen and expand apprenticeships.

The Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS) has outlined the measures as part of the Government’s Draft Legislative Programme.

“Any measure that promotes relevant training for adults is in our view a good thing,” said Richard Beamish, Chief Executive of Asset Skills. “However, we must ensure FM employers are behind this and will not have to pay for basic skills learning which should have been taught at school. As the Sector Skills Council for the FM industry we are constantly pushing the business case for training. We want to persuade employers of the long term rewards like low staff turnover and higher productivity.”

Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills John Denham said: “If the job prospects of our workforce are to improve and the country is to succeed internationally, we have to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to rise as far as their abilities can take them. Learning starts before school and it should not stop when you leave. While it is right that we consult on this proposal, I believe that skills development has to become an integral part of working life for everyone. A right to request training will help ensure this becomes a reality.”

The new Education and Skills Bill will apply to 22m employees in England only. The Government will consult on how workers can be legally empowered to request time to undertake training that will benefit them and their employer. The practical arrangements which employers would follow would be modelled on the existing right to request flexible working. By introducing a new right to ask for time for training, staff will be able to talk to employers about their training needs which in turn should help raise awareness of the public funds available to support training. Employers will be legally obliged to seriously consider requests they receive but could refuse one where there was a good business reason to do so.

“Employers will not be obliged to meet the training costs but we would expect many to choose to do so, recognising the opportunity to invest in their business,” said Richard Beamish.

The right will be backed by ongoing Government investment in skills and training. In particular, employers will be encouraged to take advantage of the Train to Gain service, which helps businesses identify and address skills needs. Equally, the established network of over 19,000 union learning representatives, skills accounts, with resources tailored to the individual, and the new adult careers and advancement service - both of which will begin operating across the country from 2010 - will help people to maximise the benefits of the new right for them.

Details of the Education and Skills Bill are contained in the Government's green paper Preparing Britain for the Future - the Draft Legislative Programme 2008-09. This sets out the UK Government's plans for legislative and key non-legislative action in next year's Parliamentary session. See The bill also sets out measures covering children and schools, referred to in DCSF's press notice, available at

If you want to make Your Voice heard, you can comment on the programme. See

You can also see what is going on in your region
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The proposed Time to Train legislation would work so that:
* employees can ask their employer for time to train, where the training will benefit both them and the employer;
* requests do not have to be about accredited programmes, but might simply be for short, unaccredited, training;
* the employer must consider a request carefully, but could decline it for a good business reason; and there will be no requirements on employers where an employee was recruited less than 26 weeks previously;
* employers agreeing a request can agree to meet the employee's salary during training if they wish, but are not obliged to do so if it is 'off the job' training;
* employers agreeing a request can organise the training if they wish, and indeed pay for it, but there is no obligation to do so. Work-based training would naturally count as 'time to train';
* alternatively the employee may need to arrange their own training, perhaps through a local college, but will benefit from being released from work. The employer would not be expected to pay towards this if they did not wish to do so; and
* the practical arrangements which employers would follow would be modelled on the existing right to request flexible working, with which many employers are by now familiar. Appeals to employers, and tribunal arrangements, would also follow that system.

Funding for apprenticeships will increase by almost a quarter between 2007/08 and 2010/11, to over £1bn. Funding will be available specifically for expanding apprenticeships for those aged 25 or over.
Apprenticeship starts have increased from 65,000 in 1996/97 to 180,000 in 2006/07. They are projected to grow to almost 210,000 by 2010/11.

The Apprenticeship Bill, to be published in draft form this summer, will form part of the Education and Skills Bill to be introduced in the next parliamentary session.

Skills Accounts
Skills Accounts will be offered nationally from 2010 onwards. Skills accounts will be available alongside the adult advancement and careers service to give all adults better access to the range of services and support they need over a lifetime to take control of their future. Through a Skills Account, an individual will have:
- A virtual "voucher" of state funding, representing their entitlement, to purchase learning at a quality assured provider of their choice;
- Access to a portal of comprehensive and up to date information through the adult advancement and careers service, signposting the learner to the choices and learner support available;
- A clear and inspiring record of their future goals, skills and career achievements, accessible online, providing clear evidence of a commitment to training and progression that can be shared; and
- Ongoing targeted advice triggered towards the end of each phase of learning, enabling individuals to unlock the provision available.

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