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Business groups welcome delay to time to train rules

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Business organisations have applauded the Government’s decision to delay the introduction of new rules on the right of employees to request time off work to train.

The right for employees to request time for training to improve their skills has been available to employees of large firms with 250 or more employees since April 2010.

But following a recent consultation covering a wide range of businesses and employee groups, the Government is to take further time to examine the potential impact of the regulation on smaller firms.

As a consequence, moves to extend the right to employees of smaller firms, which was due to be introduced in April 2011, have been postponed.

John Hayes, the Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning Minister, said: “It is vital to the economy and individuals that everyone has access to the training they need. That is why we are investing in apprenticeships, protecting adult and community learning, and freeing colleges to respond to local needs.

“But it is vital that the right balance is struck between support for training and the need to minimise the burden of regulation for smaller companies.

“We have delayed implementation to allow further, thorough discussion, scrutiny and evaluation.”

Time to Train operates on a similar basis to the right to request flexible working. Employees are entitled to request time to undertake work relevant training, which employers must formally consider. Employers can refuse the request if one of a number acceptable business reasons applies.

Business groups welcomed the deferral.

David Frost, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, (BCC) said: “The Government’s move to delay the Time off to Train regulations for small- and medium-sized firms is a good start, but we must go further if we are to get companies recruiting and growing their businesses.

“As our research shows, businesses are facing a raft of employment legislation that will cost them £23bn to implement over the next four years. But, the costs associated with the Time off to Train regulations only amount to £174.96 million per year – a drop in the ocean when looking at the total figure which is well into the billions.

“Beyond delaying, the Government must look to scrap these burdensome regulations, especially since the latest figures show unemployment in the UK is now at a record high. Unless we see a further reduction in red tape, we will continue to see high levels of unemployment for the foreseeable future and could end up putting the recovery at risk.”

Alexander Ehmann, head of regulation at the Institute of Directors, added: “We welcome the news that small businesses will not be facing this unnecessary and bureaucratic imposition in April. However, it is important that the postponement does not prove to be a false dawn in the Government’s de-regulatory efforts.

“Postponement is a start, but this Government will be judged on its final decision regarding the future of Time to Train. Anything less than the repeal of the burdensome Time to Train requirements on businesses of all sizes will be a failure. The IoD will be holding ministers to account on this one. It’s not enough for the Government to stem the flow of employment regulation, it also has to deregulate in some areas.”