Apprenticeship Training: frequently asked questions
Apprentices who are still working
Q) Due to business continuity measures, all staff are required to be available at their usual place of work in their usual critical worker job role. How can apprentices continue their learning?
If apprentices are required to attend their usual place of work in their usual job role, there are several options available:
apprentices could engage in off-the-job training within the workplace at a convenient time within their agreed working hours
apprentices could engage in digital or distance learning at a convenient time within their agreed working hours
they could be offered additional on-site mentor support
they could take a short pause in their learning of less than four weeks while still completing by their planned end-date they could take a formal break in learning of four weeks or more and re-calculate the planned end-date upon their return to learning
Q) Critical worker staff are having to be moved into different and/or business critical roles that aren’t related to their apprenticeship. What happens to their apprenticeship if they can’t continue training?
Apprenticeship training must be linked to the job role that the individual is undertaking. Where this link is broken temporarily, it is our goal that apprentices can promptly resume their apprenticeship and continue to successful completion of EPA at a future date. As well as apprentices, employers and training providers can now, temporarily, also report and initiate a break in learning where the interruption to learning is greater than four weeks.
Q) Critical worker staff are having to be moved into different and/or business critical roles that are connected to their apprenticeship. Can they continue training?
Where apprentices can remain on their programme, they should continue to fulfil their off-the-job training, ensuring that a minimum of 20% is completed over the duration of their apprenticeship. Off-the-job training can already be delivered flexibility at a time and way to suit the employer and apprentice (remote observations, distance learning, etc.) and many training providers have developed additional training material in response to coronavirus (COVID-19). If a critical worker apprentice has been redeployed into another role then some of this activity may still count towards off-the-job training, but this should be discussed and agreed between the employer and provider, with the aim of ensuring that the apprentice gets the right training and support to be ready to complete their apprenticeship. All off-the-job training must be relevant new training that develops the knowledge, skills and behaviours of the apprenticeship and, where funding is being accessed, it must be delivered by an organisation on the Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers. Evidence of delivery must be kept.
Apprentices who are self-isolating, caring for family members, or sick.
Q) If an apprentice needs to self-isolate, what will happen to their apprenticeship?
Apprenticeships have been designed to be responsive to changes in apprentices' circumstances, for example during a period of illness. If an apprentice needs to self-isolate they should talk to their employer and training provider about the best way to continue with their apprenticeship or report a break in learning. Options include:
a short pause of less than four weeks in their apprenticeship while they are in self- isolation. This will not affect the planned end-date of their apprenticeship
a formal break in learning of four weeks or more that their training provider should report to the ESFA. This will result in the planned end-date for their apprenticeship being re-planned upon returning to learning to take into consideration the duration in line with the length of their break
re-scheduling planned assessment activity for a later date
The appropriate steps will be agreed based on the apprentice’s and the employer/ training provider's situation.
Q) What should employers do if they think an apprentice is not well enough to work (especially in a health setting)?
Employers should follow government’s guidance for employers and businesses on coronavirus (COVID-19) at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-toemployers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/guidance-for-employers-and-businesses-oncoronavirus-covid-19
Q) If an apprentice can’t work/attend training, will they still be paid?
An apprenticeship is a job with training, so even when they are not able to do their training, they are still employed, unless they have been notified otherwise by their employer. They will be paid in line with the details in their employment contract.
Where they are unable to work, we suggest that apprentices speak to their employer about their polices on pay.
Q) A provider has put an apprentice on a break in learning because they can’t deliver training. As the apprentice is working as normal their employer wants their apprenticeship to continue, can the employer override this break in learning?
Where training cannot take place for any reason, and this may include the ability of the provider to continue delivery, an apprentice must be put on a break in learning to pause payments. Training providers are working hard to develop flexible learning packages to ensure continuity of training where possible and, for some, this may take some time. If employers have concerns, we encourage they discuss these with the provider.
Apprentices who are working at home
Q) How does an apprentice record progress towards their apprenticeship while they are subject to different working conditions like working from home?
Apprentices should already be recording their off-the-job training activity using an approach agreed with their training provider. They should continue to use this.
Q) When an apprentice is working from home, can a provider count anything they do as off-the-job training?
Off-the-job training is a statutory requirement for an English apprenticeship. It is training which is received by the apprentice during the apprentice’s normal working hours for the purpose of achieving the knowledge, skills and behaviours of the approved apprenticeship referenced in the apprenticeship agreement. All off-the-job training must be directly relevant to the apprenticeship but this can now be delivered more flexibly, including remote working. Employers may set employee’s training tasks when they’re working from home, but where these are not directly linked to the apprenticeship, it cannot be classed as off-the job training.
Q) Can apprentices change training provider if they are offering more online / digital delivery?
A change in training provider can occur at any time.
When an apprentice and employer start working with a new training provider activity must take place to ensure that the apprenticeship programme and apprentice are eligible for funding.
Examples of necessary activity include:
initial assessment of the apprentice
completion and signing of agreements
Evidence must be collected and retained to support this activity but can be held in a digital or electronic format.
Q) Will training providers be paid more for rescheduling off-the-job training and bringing it forward?
No, the normal monthly payment profile will apply over the length of the apprenticeship, as it currently does whether training providers deliver blocks of training or more evenly spaced training. Training providers should factor this in if they are considering a change to the delivery methodology and timetable.
Q) Will employers and training providers need to revise the price of the apprenticeship if the delivery method is changing?
The price of an apprenticeship is negotiated and agreed upon by an employer and provider. If any material changes occur to the agreed delivery method that may result in a change in price, then this should be discussed and amended. We accept that this might be challenging in the current environment, and so, while we would encourage material changes to be recorded, we understand it may not be possible to do it immediately. Employer-providers will need to ensure that they are only claiming for the actual costs incurred throughout the apprenticeship and that these might now have changed.
Q) Will apprentices who have been unable to return to England, due to the outbreak, but have been able to train and work remotely still be eligible for funding?
Yes. Although the funding rules require an apprentice to spend at least 50% of their working time in England we understand that, due to the outbreak, some apprentices will have no option but to work and train remotely from a location outside of England. Where an existing apprentice is spending more than 50% of their working time, over the duration of their apprenticeship, outside of England due to coronavirus (COVID-19) they will remain eligible for support.
Apprentices who are on furlough
Q) Can training continue for apprentices on furlough?
Yes, where apprentices are on furlough, they can continue to train for their apprenticeships as long as it does not provide services to or generate revenue for their employer.
Q) If my apprentice continues to do off-the-job training, can this be more than one day a week?
Yes. The normal off-the-job training rules will apply, so training can be done as a block where this is agreed between the provider and the employer. The 20% minimum off-the job training over the length of the apprenticeship will still need to be satisfied.
Q) Why should apprentices continue training if they can’t attend their place of work?
We do not want the disruption caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak to prevent apprentices continuing to learn where this is still possible. Not being able to apply the learning straight away might present some challenges, but there are benefits from carrying on with the apprenticeship during this time, including continued engagement and progression that can all be applied to the job once it is safe and practical to do so.
Q) Will apprentices be paid for continuing training if they have been on furlough?
Yes. While on furlough apprentices will still be paid by their employer and pay taxes from their income. While they cannot undertake work for their employer while on furlough, they can undertake training. Where training has been required by their employer, they should be paid the appropriate minimum wage for the time spent training. This will be covered as part of their furlough payment in the first instance.
Apprentices time spent training must be paid at the appropriate minimum wage. Where the total furlough payment amount equates to less than the appropriate minimum wage for the total amount of their time spent training during the furlough period, their employer should top up their furlough payment.
Q) How will employers know if they need to top up an employee’s wages if they are on furlough but continuing with their apprenticeship?
Where training is undertaken by furloughed employees, at the request of the employer, they are entitled to be paid at least their appropriate national minimum wage for this time. In most cases, the furlough payment of 80% of an employee’s regular wage, up to the value of £2,500, will provide sufficient monies to cover these training hours. However, where the overall time spent training, during the furlough period, attracts a minimum wage entitlement in excess of the furlough payment, employers will need to pay the additional wages. This is because time spent training is treated as working time for the purposes of the minimum wage calculations and therefore must be paid at the appropriate rate, taking into account the increase in minimum wage rates from 1 April 2020.
From 1 August 2020, the level of grant will be reduced each month, along with who has responsibility for National Insurance contributions and minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions. The timetable for changes to the scheme is set out in the changes to the Coronavirus Job Retention scheme guidance. Employers will be asked to pay a percentage towards the salaries of their furloughed staff. The employer payments will substitute the contribution the government is currently making, ensuring that staff continue to receive 80% of their salary, up to £2,500 a month.
When calculating whether they need to top up an apprentices wage, employers should consider the hours that an employee is expected to train during the period of the furlough (which must be a three-week minimum). Employers will need to ensure that the furlough payment provides sufficient monies to cover these training hours. Where the entire furlough payment equates to less than the appropriate minimum wage entitlement for the training hours during the furlough period, the employer will need to pay the additional wages to ensure at least the appropriate minimum wage is paid for the time spent training.
Q) Where an apprentice is on furlough they and their employer still take part in a progress review?
Yes, where apprentices are on furlough, they can continue to train for their apprenticeships as long as it does not provide services to or generate revenue for their employer. This includes progress reviews. If the employer (line manager) is also on furlough, then we appreciate that arranging a progress review may be more difficult at this current time. But, provided the discussion is about the progress of the apprenticeship, they are able to take part in the discussion.
Q) Can an apprentice on furlough use work technology (laptop etc) to access apprenticeship off-the-job training?
Yes, a work laptop can be used to access apprenticeship training if this is the only option, but the apprentice must be mindful of the fact that whilst they are on furlough they must not carry out their normal work. 2
Q) Can an apprentice on furlough listen in to (without taking part in) a work-related meeting / discussion to aid off-the-job training?
Apprentices who are continuing to train for their apprenticeships must not provide services to or generate revenue for their employer. If an employer wants to query an example of what an apprentice can do whilst on furlough they should speak to the HMRC helpline.
Q) Can an employer still receive an incentive payment if an apprentice is put on furlough?
If an employer recruits a new apprentice who is eligible for the incentive payment and this apprentice is subsequently furloughed through the CJRS, the employer can still receive the payment as long as the apprentice remains in training. However, if the furloughed apprentice does not continue in training and is put on a break in learning, the incentive will not be paid (as set out in the conditions signed by the employer).
Apprentices who are made redundant
Q) What happens to an apprenticeship when an apprentice is made redundant?
Apprentices should speak to their training provider if they are made redundant as their apprenticeship training and assessment may be able to continue. Training providers may still be able to offer training, based on an apprentice’s circumstances, in the short term. They may even be able to support them in finding a new employer. If that move becomes permanent, apprentices should look to see which alternative apprenticeship they can transfer to at Find Apprenticeship Training and liaise with their training provider in the usual way.
Q) Will apprentices who would, if not for the outbreak, have started with their new employer within 30 days of leaving their last still be eligible for funding when they start working for their new employer?
Yes. Although the funding rules only allow an apprentice to have a 30-day break between employers we understand that, due to the outbreak, some apprentices will have not been permitted to start working for and training with their new employer. Where an apprentice had planned to start with their new employer within 30 days of leaving their last but has had a break of over 30 days between employers due to coronavirus (COVID-19) they will remain eligible for support on their return.
Apprentices who are on unpaid leave
Q) What happens to the apprentice during a period of unpaid leave in terms of monies? Do they have access to universal credit?
Through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, all UK employers will be able to access support to continue paying part of their employees’ salary for those employees that would otherwise have been laid off. HMRC will reimburse up to 80% of furloughed workers wage costs, up to a cap of £2,500 per month.
Alternatively, Universal Credit may be available for both workers and the unemployed alike, as long as they meet the other conditions of entitlement (including that the applicant and their partner have savings of under £16,000 between them). Apprentices may be entitled to access Universal Credit during a period of unpaid leave. They may also have access to Universal Credit even if they were working and being paid. Being laid off or on fewer hours could increase the rate of Universal Credit entitlement.
Apprentices on unpaid leave may also be eligible for other benefits. Information is available at www.gov.uk/browse/benefits
Recruiting new apprentices
Q) Can an employer recruit a new member of staff into the business as an apprentice?
Yes, an employer can recruit and start apprenticeships as they would have done prior to coronavirus (COVID-19), if all personal and programme eligibility funding rules can be met and the provider is still able to support this activity. From 1 November onwards, employers can only claim for furloughed employees that were on the PAYE payroll on or before 30 October 2020. Therefore, it would not be possible for an employer to recruit an apprentice after this date where the intention is to furlough this person immediately and claim wage support from the CJRS.
Q) Can an existing member of staff start an apprenticeship whilst they are furloughed?
Yes, a furloughed member of staff can start an apprenticeship, but they must still meet the learner eligibility and programme eligibility criteria of the apprenticeship funding rules. For example, the apprenticeship must be a real job, the candidate must require a programme that has a minimum training duration of 12 months, with a minimum of 20% off the job training over this duration to become occupationally competent. With regards to learner eligibility, the provider should consider how they would assure the ESFA of the identity and eligibility of the individual and how they would carry out the initial assessment.
Q) Are the evidence arrangements around obtaining apprentice signatures being relaxed during coronavirus (COVID-19)?
When starting a new apprenticeship, and throughout training, signatures are required to form part of the evidence pack. Examples of where the funding rules ask for evidence of signatures to be retained are:
the apprenticeship agreement.
the commitment statement.
external audit reports for subcontractors.
evidence linking to additional payments such as additional learning support and the care leavers bursary.
contracts for services.
agreements that an apprentice has passed all gateway requirements.
It is expected that where training providers already have a digital/electronic signature process, they must continue to utilise their existing processes in accordance with the respective funding rules.
Where a provider has no digital or electronic systems and processes in place to capture an apprentice or employer signature, then under normal circumstances a wet signature is required for recruitment and evidence of continuing learning. A wet signature is created when a person physically ‘marks’ a document.
It is recognised that training providers delivering training and/or recruiting apprentices during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak will experience difficulty in obtaining apprentice and employer wet signatures. Therefore, where training providers do not have systems and processes in place for electronic/digital signatures, during the coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions we will allow confirmation/evidence to be obtained through email.
For the purpose of audit evidence, we expect a record of acknowledgement or adoption of a genuine electronic message or document. Acceptable alternative evidence includes:
An email from the apprentice and/or employer’s email address with details of the confirmation and their typed name at the end of the message.
A typed name on an electronic form or document emailed from the apprentice and/or employer.
A signed scanned document attached to an email from the apprentice and/or employer.
A photo taken on a camera/digital medium of the signed document attached to an email from the apprentice and/or employer.
We are allowing training providers to use this type of electronic confirmation during the period of restrictions due to coronavirus (COVID-19) only where no other useable digital or electronic processes exist. This is not to be used as alternative evidence as part of the provider’s business as usual process once the coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions are lifted.
If you have any further questions not answered here, please get in touch with our Apprenticeship Consultants via firstname.lastname@example.org