Here at Co-op we’re committed to helping colleagues to develop, and we know that personal study can play a key role.

If you want to do a study programme that’ll give you either an educational or vocational qualification, please talk to your manager about it.

If what you’re after fits with the personal growth plan you’ve agreed as part of your goal setting process, and there’s budget available in your area to cover any costs, we may be able to support.

For information about Co-op Legal Services specific qualifications, please also read their study policy in the document below.

Crucial bits

Types of study

Our preference at Co-op is to offer apprenticeship programmes wherever possible to meet your needs, so consider apprenticeships first before looking into other options. You and your manager can learn more about what an apprenticeship involves here.

If an apprenticeship isn’t a viable option, we may support study, including time off and financial support (see sections below) for courses or programmes that:

  • lead to a certified qualification, membership of a professional body or a standard of achievement that’s recognised by Co-op.
  • are at a standard where there’s reasonable expectation that you’ll achieve success
  • fit with our approved supplier and procurement approaches; and
  • are relevant to your current or future position within our Co-op and in line with your agreed personal growth plan

There’s an Application for Time off to Train or Study Form (below) which you can use to make your request. Managers should use template letters SS1 or SS2 (below) as appropriate to confirm their decision.

If the qualification or course you want to do doesn’t qualify for support under this policy, talk to your manager to see if you can take some unpaid time off to attend and study. We’ll always agree to let you take a reasonable amount of unpaid leave to train or study if your manager believes that it would improve your performance at work and benefit our Co-op.

Financial support

To apply for financial support, you’ll need to complete the Financial Support for Study Application Form (below) and give this to your manager.

If your application is approved, your manager will sign the application form and give you a copy so you have a record of what’s been agreed. If they’re unable to approve your request, your manager will explain why and send you a letter to confirm their decision – managers should use template letter SS3 - below.

If it’s approved, Co-op will provide financial support in the following ways:

  • pay up to the full amount of fees for the course/programme of study;
  • pay the fees for any examination or certification award in full;
  • contribute towards buying essential textbooks (subject to a maximum of £50 per year);
  • pay any registration fees for the educational institution and any student subscription fees*;
  • give paid study leave - up to 2 days per exam; and
  • give paid leave to take the exam and approved revision courses

*Once you’ve completed your qualification, payment of professional membership and subscription fees may be able to be reclaimed under the Business Travel and Expenses Policy.

We’ll also pay normal business travel expenses for up to 20 miles for travel beyond your usual travel to work or for a residential programme.

If you need to re-sit any exams, we may provide support towards your first re-sit. This will depend on the commitment you’ve shown to your studies, how likely you are to be successful in the re-sit and your overall performance in the course so far.

Reimbursement of costs

If you leave the Co-op for any reason other than because of redundancy or ill-health before you’ve completed the course or programme, or you drop out of the course before you’ve finished it (unless there are exceptional circumstances), you must repay the full costs we’ve incurred so far.

If you resign, or are dismissed for reasons of conduct or performance, within two years of completing your study, you must repay the costs for your last two years of study as follows:

  • Within 12 months - 50% of total costs
  • Within 18 months - 25% of total costs
  • Within 24 months - 10% of total costs

Just so it’s clear, when you sign the application form, you’re giving Co-op the authority to make the appropriate deduction from your final wage and/or outstanding holiday pay.

Thinks to think about

Time for study

Unless you’re studying on an apprenticeship, where 20% of your working time will be dedicated to your study, ideally you should choose a method of study that impacts on your work as little as possible, such as courses that take place outside your working hours or online modules that you can complete in your own time. But we know that sometimes this won’t be possible or practical.

If you need to take time off work to study, talk to your manager about your needs and they’ll do their best to accommodate them. They’ll look at things such as your personal growth needs, the likely impact on the business and how this can be managed, the amount of time you’ll need to study and the availability of other options.

If you need to change your working pattern so you can study, talk to your manager and we’ll do our best to accommodate the change. See the Flexible Working Policy for details of how to request a change to your working pattern

If you’re doing a course with online content, your manager will look at the internet resources you have available outside of work. They may give you a reasonable amount of time to do some study within work time – for example, if you’re recommended to do four hours online study each week, your manager may let you do two hours of study on our network within working time.

If you need further support

If you have any questions about support for studying towards educational and vocational qualifications, please speak to your manager.

If you are asked to approve a request you can read more guidance about study support below.