Employing young people: time off for education and training

Posted on
Employers need to be aware that the law on time off for education and training for young people in England has been changing, and final provisions took effect on 26 June.

Time off for education and training: the current position in Wales and Scotland

The Employment Rights Act 1996 has long required employers to provide paid time off for young employees to undertake study or training while working. However, since 28 June 2013, these provisions have largely been superseded by new arrangements in England, and are now largely applicable in Wales and Scotland only.

The right for young people to take time off to undertake training or education only applies to an employee who:

  • is aged 16 or 17; and
  • is not in full time secondary or further education (ie not in high school or college); and
  • has not attained the level of achievement prescribed by law. The relevant level of achievement for England and Wales is 5 GCSE at grades A* – C (or their broad equivalents set out in the legislation); and
  • is not a member of the armed services.

It also applies to employees who are aged 18, meet the above conditions, and started studying/training on a relevant qualification before the age of 18.

What does this mean for employers in practice?

Employers with young employees in Wales and Scotland who meet the above conditions must allow the employee time off work to study a relevant qualification. The Regulations state that the amount of time off, the conditions attached to it, and when it may be taken should be what is reasonable in the circumstances. Employers are also entitled to consider both the requirements of the employee’s study or training, and the effect that the employee’s time off may have on the business when making such decisions.

Additionally, employers should be aware that any time off also has to be paid, at the appropriate hourly rate, calculated by reference to a week’s pay.

Current position in England

Since 28 June 2013, the arrangements brought in by the Education and Skills Act 2008 have required young persons who are no longer of compulsory school age, but who are still within one year of such age (most 16 and 17 year olds) in England to participate in education or training if they do not already have a level 3 qualification. A level 3 qualification is broadly two A levels (or equivalent). The requirement on such young persons is that they must either:

  • be in appropriate full time education or training (considering their age, ability, aptitude, and needs);
  • be on an apprenticeship; or
  • be in full time work (working at least 20 hours per week, under a contract of employment, and not as a short term arrangement) AND participate in “sufficient relevant training or education”.

Relevant training or education refers to a “regulated qualification” which, broadly, is an academic or vocational qualification awarded in England by a body recognised by Ofqual, but which is not a degree and which must also involve at least 280 hours of guided learning per year.

However, where this requirement applies, the young person no longer has the right to the paid time off set out above (unlike his peers in Wales and Scotland). The new arrangement in England does not specify whether or not the young person should be paid for any time off taken in respect of undertaking such further studies or training.

It should also be noted that although the provisions concerning the duty to continue in such education or training are in force, provisions which govern the employer’s duties to cooperate and to grant time off are not yet in force.

The position from 26 June 2015

From 26 June 2015, in England only, the Education and Skills Act 2008 extends the above requirement to participate in education or training to all those who are under 18 years of age and who do not have a level 3 qualification.

What employers can do

Employers who take on school leavers as full time employees should continue to carry out checks on the qualifications which they have achieved to ascertain whether or not the young person will be required to continue in some form of structured education or training whilst in employment.

Additionally, the relevant age group has increased to include all young persons up to the age of 18 (from 26 June 2015), so employers may wish to re-assess whether or not any young persons in their employ will be required to undertake such training or education.

This article was originally published on the Personnel Today website.