Off-site training and continuing education are useful tools you can use to upskill your workforce. But they are an investment. At the very least, you will most likely be required to pay for the hours an employee spends at a training course and those hours must count toward any overtime calculation.
The time that employees spend in training courses is considered hours worked unless all four of the following criteria are met:
- Attendance at the course is outside regular working hours;
- Attendance is completely voluntary;
- The course is not directly job-related; and
- The employee does not perform any productive work during the course.
To determine whether the training is "directly job-related," you must ascertain whether the purpose of the course is to make the employee more efficient and effective in their current position. If the outside training is intended to develop the employee for an advancement opportunity or is for college credit, it most likely can be excluded from the "directly job-related" category.
As a side note, it is permissible to pay employees at a lower rate for training time (as long as that training rate meets or exceeds minimum wage). However, to do so, you must notify the employee in writing of the pay rate the company will use for training hours. The required notice period varies from state to state so to maintain compliance, make sure you and your payroll team understand your state's laws.