I work as a programmer for a mid-sized company (about 500 employees) in the medical industry. Before that I worked at a custom software development/consulting company. At both companies programmers were never officially given time to continue their education through taking classes, reading books or blogs, or doing research relevant to the job. At the software development company we were offered some money to pay for a class, but not offered any time off of work to take the class.
I have been wondering, do most employers of programmers give time off of work to take a class, read a book, or do job related research? By time off of work I just mean some period of time where you can stop development; it does not have to mean leaving the office. I would be grateful to hear about everyone's experience with this.