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Training: statutory and mandatory


Some organisations use the terms essential or compulsory training as a 'catch all' to cover both mandatory and statutory training. Here we explain the difference and outline your rights and responsibilities when it comes to workplace training.

This type of training is usually required by law or where a statutory body has instructed an organisation to provide training on the basis of specific legislation (i.e. the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999). 

Employers often describe this as ‘essential’ or ‘compulsory’ training and it ensures staff have the knowledge to maintain a healthy and safe working environment for themselves and their colleagues. 

Staff shortages or other issues related to unsustainable pressures at work may affect your ability to undertake training. If this impacts on your progression at work or your pay, please see our unsustainable pressures for further guidance and contact us.

What this can include

In the NHS, all new employees are required to undertake core health and safety awareness and training. This usually includes:

  • awareness of the local health and safety policy
  • awareness of the control of substances hazardous to health (COSHH)
  • when and how to report injuries, diseases and dangerous occurrences (RIDDOR)
  • fire safety awareness training  
  • manual handling training
  • basic risk assessment training
  • annual updates in essential areas of fire safety and manual handling. 

Starting a new job

When starting a new job most employees will be expected to have an induction programme, usually within the first month of starting work. During your first year you are usually required to complete the statutory and mandatory training sessions that were not covered in your induction. Attendance at statutory and mandatory training usually forms part of your terms and conditions. 

Read your contract and local policies so you know what to expect. 

Mandatory training is compulsory training that is determined essential by an organisation for the safe and efficient delivery of services. This type of training is designed to reduce organisational risks and comply with local or national policies and government guidelines. 

Mandatory training might include (but is not limited to): 

  • blood transfusion processes
  • child protection
  • clinical record keeping
  • complaints handling
  • conflict resolution (managing violence and aggression)
  • consent
  • display and screen equipment
  • dementia awareness
  • equality awareness and eliminating bullying and harassment
  • incident reporting
  • hand hygiene
  • hazardous substances
  • infection prevention and control
  • information governance
  • mental capacity and safeguarding adults
  • medicines handling and management
  • medical devices
  • patient slips, trips and falls
  • personal protective equipment
  • resuscitation
  • venous thromboembolism
  • raising concerns and whistleblowing
  • violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence.

Attending mandatory training

We believe mandatory training should be paid for by the employer and undertaken during work time. Furthermore, ACAS say that if you are an employee and started working for your employer after 6 April 2020, your written terms (in your contract of employment) must set out the training you should complete, including training that your employer does not pay for. Your employer may require you to attend training or updates on days when you are not working, but you should be given the equivalent time off to compensate. If you work regular night shifts your employer should take this into account to ensure that you can attend any regular training updates.

Any work-related training is counted as 'working time' under the Working Time Regulations 1998 and as such, counts as work when weekly hours are being calculated.

Read more on working time and breaks.

Training and updates

Mandatory training usually requires attending annual updates, dependent on the role and organisational requirements.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) does not set specific requirements stating how often mandatory training must be undertaken or completed. However, the NMC does require that registrants remain trained and competent. Your employer is free to set their own protocols and policies on training that all staff are contractually obliged to follow.

Employer obligations 

There are many frameworks under which employers should be delivering mandatory training. In the NHS for example, NHS Resolution sets the risk management standards for the Clinical Negligence Scheme for Trusts and the Care Quality Commission sets standards alongside their own inspection criteria. Frameworks will vary depending on:

  • the risks encountered in the working environment
  • the needs of the workforce
  • insurers' standards
  • governance and legal frameworks in place
  • country-specific requirements
  • equality and diversity.

In England, Wales and Scotland, if you are an employee and you work in an organisation with 250 or more employees, you have the statutory right to request time for study or training. 

To make a statutory request for time to train you must be an employee and have worked for your employer continuously for at least 26 weeks before you apply.

Please note your employer can refuse your request if they have a good business reason. If you are in England, Wales and Scotland more information is available from the government website, training and study at work.

In Northern Ireland any job-related training is considered part of your working week in terms of the working time limits regulations.

Agency and bank workers do not have the statutory right to request ‘time to train’ or paid time off to study, and this is detailed below.

The Equality Act 2010 (the Act) places a responsibility on employers to eliminate discrimination, harassment and victimisation, and promote equal opportunities. This means employers should consider those protected under the Act when designing and delivering statutory and mandatory training. The employer should consider what adjustments can be made for staff with a disability. This could be to ensure that the times, locations and delivery of the training is suitable and accessible. The employer should remove any physical barriers, or provide extra equipment or aids where required.       

The Equality Act 2010 places a responsibility on employers to ensure that any training policy and practice does not disadvantage or negatively impact protected groups. For example, arranging mandatory training sessions/updates only on certain days of the week, which might prevent employees with a religious belief or faith from attending.

If you share a protected characteristic under the Act and are experiencing discrimination, please contact us for advice.

For more information, please see Your rights to equality at work: training, development, promotion and transfer (EHRC 2011)

If you are based in Northern Ireland, see Equality Commission Northern Ireland

Your contract with the temporary work agency should outline your right to access essential/ mandatory training to ensure you work in a safe manner. Common training areas covered should include:

  • data protection
  • health and safety at work
  • control of substances hazardous to health (COSHH)
  • fire safety awareness
  • infection control
  • manual handling
  • lone working
  • safeguarding vulnerable adults
  • safeguarding children.

Agency and bank workers do not have the statutory right to request time off under the government's guidance , nor paid time off to study.

Generally, agency and bank nurses should receive mandatory training, but usually need to self-fund any further career development.

NHS Professionals (bank only) can access the majority of their training courses online. Please see the 'Our Members' section. 

We can provide careers advice to help with your development.

We could also be running local study days, workshops, short courses and seminars in your area. Please go to the RCN events and conferences page for further information.

For advice on referencing this web page, refer to your university's guidance. There are different styles of referencing so it's important to check which one is preferred by your course provider. You can read more about referencing on the RCN's library site

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Get answers to your contract questions including notice queries and whether your employer can change your contract.

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Page last updated - 12/06/2024