Does attendance at optional training count as working time?Posted in : Seamus Says - Employment Law Discussion on 6 July 2018
Q. Do the following count as working time, and therefore should they be paid time? Attendance at training, which the company offers but staff volunteer to attend." So it's not necessarily unpaid volunteers getting training, but workers who volunteered their time. "These staff are paid early and work mainly part-timers. If they wish to attend training, their shifts are organised around this. So do employers have to pay for employees to attend training courses?
Seamus: If the employee is volunteering to attend the training, there wouldn't be any compulsory aspect from the employer, then no, there's no entitlement to payment in relation to that. So the guidelines, if the training is optional and the employee wants to avail of it, and then they're not entitled to any payment. And so that's where the volunteer aspect of it, because the natural fact, these are employees that are paid on an hourly basis or workers that are paid on an hourly basis.
If the employer is saying there's a compulsory aspect to all of this, and this can happen whenever the person commences a new role, that there will be compulsory training, and certainly that's payable because the company are saying you must attend the training, then it's payable. But where it's optional and it's not compulsory, then there's no obligation to you to pay.
Scott: Yeah, I suppose there's a balance there, because if you're sending your workers on training courses, there must be a purpose behind it.
Seamus: You would imagine. Sometimes there are other scenarios there, where the employee can approach the employer and say, "There's training available there. I think this training would really assist me in doing my job. I'd really like to go and do that training." And the employer may permit the employee to take some time off, may rearrange the working pattern or the work shifts in order to do that.
Ultimately, there would be a benefit for the employer, where you have an employee that is eager and keen, is going to get further training, is ultimately going to do their job better. So there's food for thought there in relation to how the employer seeks to deal about it.
Scott: Most employers would pay, they would do it during working time unless there are shift issues here, obviously. But if it's during working time, most employers would just say you take the time off and we pay for it.
Seamus: Yeah. That's exactly it, and there's an incentive and a reward there for an employee that is keen to pick up and maybe to improve their performance and things like that. But where they're voluntarily asking for it, there's no strict obligation to pay for it. But it's my kind of view that a lot of employers will do, or my experience, a lot of employers will seek to cover that.
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