Allowing time off for job hunting and training for redundant employees

Posted On: 2nd December 2020

The current situation means that many business owners have found themselves in a position where they must save costs and as a result of this we have seen and indeed supported on many restructures and redundancies. Business owners will want to ensure that those affected find alternative work and support them in doing so. A common question that we often get asked is;

Is the redundant employee entitled to paid time off to look for a new job during their notice period?

What is the legal position?

For employees who have been given notice of redundancy and who have worked for you for at least two continuous years by the date their notice expires, the law allows employees to take reasonable time off during working hours to look for a new job or make arrangements for training for future opportunities.

The big questions then…… What’s reasonable? AND Can you refuse to give the time off?

Employers cannot unreasonably refuse an employee time off for job hunting, or refuse to pay them for time off, and doing so may leave you exposed to an Employment Tribunal. The law doesn’t stipulate what is ‘reasonable’ time off. We recognise that this is most unhelpful to employers and obviously leaves it open to interpretation as what is reasonable to some may not be reasonable to others.

In reality, what is reasonable will differ depending on the individual circumstances of each case. If the question ends up being determined by an Employment Tribunal, the things that will be taken into account are;

  • the impact of the absence on the business;
  • the length of the employee’s notice period;
  • how much notice the employee gives of their intention to take time off; and
  • the state of the current employment market.

We would always therefore suggest carefully weighing up these factors before denying an employee’s request for time off.

Notwithstanding the above, employees cannot abuse this legal right and use it as a way to avoid working their notice period. If you have a substantiated suspicion that the employee is faking interview invites and not using the time off for this intended purpose, it may be reasonable to refuse to grant the time.

Do you have to pay employees for reasonable time off?

Where an employee is employed to work a five-day week, then they would be entitled to full pay for any amount of time off up to two days (40 per cent) per week  but they are not entitled to pay thereafter. The employee could always request to take annual leave or agree unpaid leave with you to cover any deficit. There may already be a contractual agreement in place that specifies more generous payments so check the contract first and of course, or you may wish to be more generous and give more paid time off than their entitlement.  

How to manage requests?

You may want to consider setting out your stance on such time off, perhaps something along the lines of……’We will endeavour to be as flexible as possible with you requests for time off provided that you give us reasonable notice’. Consider setting out whom they should make the request to, how they should make the request, how much notice is required and how long it will take for the request to be considered. You may want to add this into the letter when you write to them confirming their termination on grounds on redundancy.