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Young people not exercising their right to time off for training

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A report from the Department for Education and Employment finds that employment legislation introduced to establish the right for employees aged 16 and 17 to paid time off work for training has had little impact on the amount of training taking place.

The legislation for time off for study or training, which came into force in September 1999 as an amendment to the Employment Rights Act 1996, requires employers to allow any employees under the age of 18 who did not achieve the equivalent of 5 GCSES at grades A-C paid time off to study towards NVQ level 2 qualifications. The legislation also applies to 18 year-olds who started their studies aged 16 or 17. There is no exemption for small firms, and no qualifying period of employment for the employee.

The study carried out by the DfEE to establish how effective the legislation had been found that the main reasons for young people failing to take up their right to training was their apprehension at approaching employers to ask for time off, a lack of awareness of the legislation, lack of self-confidence and uncertainty over their future careers. It recommends that careers service and TEC staff are better briefed about the legislation, and that processes are established to identify those leaving education and training programmes early for jobs, in order that those entitled to the time off can be easily identified.

Part of the reason why the study found little take-up is likely to be the fact that the legislation doesn't establish a set amount of time to be allowed for study, stating that 'this will vary with the differing circumstances of employers and employees'. During the passage of the legislation through Parliament, Ministers indicated that the overall yardstick they had in mind was the equivalent of one day a week, but given that this is not set in stone, young people who are just setting out in work are likely to struggle to establish their rights to a reasonable amount of time set aside for training. The legislation guidance states that as a last resort, the issue can be taken to an Employment Tribunal, but that TECs/LSCs and careers services should be able to help if there are issues.

For a copy of the study (available for £4.85), e-mail [email protected].

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