Learning agreements

What is a learning agreement?

A learning agreement is a document that sets out in writing the commitments made by an employer and one or more unions, specifying how they will work together on learning issues.

In some employers, there will already be an agreement in place. This may be a specific learning agreement or it may be part of a more general recognition agreement. Some employers come under national agreements. For example, for local government employers, the Green Book which determines employees’ terms and conditions also sets out their entitlement to training and development and states that ULRs should be encouraged and supported.

What makes a good learning agreement?

No two learning agreements will look the same as each other. However, there are certain key points that a good learning agreement will address, including:

  • who is involved – the employer, the union(s)
  • principles – including the fundamental principle that learning should benefit the confidence and skills of the individual, and a definition of learning that is accessible to everyone
  • the commitments of both the employer (to implementing the learning strategy from the highest level) and the union (to working with members and activists to support initiatives and develop learning reps)
  • facilities and time off agreements for union learning reps
  • mechanisms and roles – setting out how the learning strategy will be delivered in practice
  • how disagreements will be resolved
  • how the agreement and the learning strategy will be reviewed and monitored

How do you get a learning agreement?

If there isn’t already a learning agreement, this is something that you can work on with your branch committee and your regional organiser. If your employer doesn’t have any sort of recognition agreement, you can ensure that learning is included in any new agreement. If there’s already an agreement but it doesn’t mention learning, you can push for it to be included when that agreement comes up for negotiation – or work to put a separate learning agreement in place. Either way, you won’t be doing this alone; you’ll want the support of your branch and your region.

Your branch secretary or regional organiser will be able to advise whether there is an agreement already in place. There may still be an opportunity to renegotiate and expand an existing agreement.

Having a learning agreement is only half the story, however. It’s equally important to make sure that you take advantage of it.

How do you use a learning agreement?

Once you have a learning agreement you can use it to:

  • Make the case for time off for ULRs to carry out their role
  • Make the case for time off for staff to undertake learning activities
  • Demonstrate the partnership between the employer and the unions to staff who are reluctant to participate in learning activities

You can still make those requests even if you don’t have a learning agreement. But it’s easier if you have it in writing that the employer will give you those things.

Further reading

Branch Guide to Lifelong Learning

Delivering better learning agreements: a Unionlearn guide