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The coalition has today announced plans to strip workers of new rights to request time off to improve their skills.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said the move will help reduce the regulatory burden on employers. If implemented, 11 million workers will lose statutory protection for their training requests.

The "time to train" rights only came into force in April, for companies with more than 250 staff. The legislation was due to be extended to all employers in 2011.

It means businesses have a legal obligation to consider requests to pursue qualifications or develop new skills during working hours. They do not have to pay salary during the training, but may only refuse a request for a "good business reason".

The legislation is unpopular with employers, who in April claimed compliance would cost them £500m. The Institute of Directors, which lobbied against the new rights, branded them "unnecessary, poorly thought through and damaging".

The Labour government said it introduced "time to train" because too many employers failed to appreciate the value of training to the economy.

The Communication Workers Union today condemned plans to scrap the legislation.

There is strong evidence from TUC research that when people undertake learning at work it can improve productivity and reduce sickness absences, so this is a relatively small investment that can really pay off for employers," general secretary Billy Hayes said.

"With the reduction in courses offered at evening classes and in FE Colleges there are fewer and fewer opportunities for adults to take up learning. Often the workplace is the only place where those essential skills for employability – such as literacy, numeracy and IT - can be accessed."

An unusually brief consultation on scrapping the rights runs until 15 September. The coalition said the period for gathering external views had been shortened in order to meet the schedule of its "Reducing Regulation Committee", which includes ministers from across government. ®

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