The ESFA has published guidance about how Covid-19 affects Apprenticeships, training and employers.
The full guidance is available at the link after these FAQ’s, we have selected parts of it relevant to Apprentices and employers. The remainder is guidance for training providers and assessment organisations. The Government is updating these Coronavirus guidance notes frequently, and it is advisable to check them often.
We want to make it clear that before you make any decision about your Apprenticeships as an Apprentice or your Apprentice as an employer, speak with us first. IPS can guide and support you on the best possible options for you as an Apprentice or an employer.
Please call or email your IPS Trainer first, we will respond to you and escalate your query if we need to.
- Apprentices should be prioritised in the offer of face-to-face training in line with the Prime Minister’s announcement that further education settings can broaden the number of 16-19 learners attending on-site delivery from 15th June.
This guidance is in three sections,
Please find below frequently asked questions and answers regarding Apprenticeship Training during this time for Apprentices and Employers:
Q1: What will happen to my Apprenticeship if I need to self-isolate?
A1: Apprenticeships are designed to be responsive to changes in Apprentices’ circumstances, for example periods of illness etc. If you do need to self-isolate then please talk to your employer and Training Provider about the best way to continue with your Apprenticeship, or a “break in learning” can be put in place.
- An increase in remote learning, digital visits etc
- A short pause of less than 4 weeks in your Apprenticeship while you are in self-isolation means your end-date isn’t affected
- A formal break in learning of 4 weeks or more that your Training Provider will have to report to the ESFA, and this will result in the planned end-date for your Apprenticeship being re-planned, upon returning to learning
- re-scheduling planned assessments for a later date due to new ways of learning
IPS Guidance: That the appropriate steps will be agreed based on you and your Employer/Training Provider’s situation.
Q2: Can I continue my Apprenticeship learning at home if I need to take care of myself/a family member?
A2: Yes, depending on your Apprenticeship, IPS are doing remote learning/e-learning so you can still do visitors and training with your IPS Trainer. Talk to them and they will discuss your options.
Q3: My employer is enforcing a work from home policy. What are my options?
A3: If you are unable to attend scheduled learning events, there are several options available to you:
- We are providing distance learning with remote visits with your IPS Trainer
- You can take a short pause if it is likely your Apprenticeship can resume in less than 4 weeks, you will still be able to complete your Apprenticeship by the planned end-date
- you can take a formal break in learning of 4 weeks or more, which we will report to the ESFA and this will result in your end-date of your Apprenticeship being re-planned upon returning to learning, to take into consideration the duration of your break
IPS Guidance: Talk to your employer and IPS as your Training Provider to agree the appropriate steps for your current situations.
Q4: How do I record progress towards my Apprenticeship while I am subject to different working conditions like working from home?
A4: You will already be recording your off-the-job training activity, so this is a great opportunity to get on with your 20% off the Job and log your theory work and training on your sheets. If your work circumstances change because of COVID-19, so that the minimum 20% off the job cannot be met, you will need to liaise with your employer and us on what options you have.
Q5: My employer is asking me to take a period of unpaid leave, what happens to my Apprenticeship during that time?
A5: Many employers who had planned to ask employees to take unpaid leave during this period will now be able to access the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and receive financial support to keep you employed. You should speak to your employer about this to understand whether you are still being asked to take unpaid leave or if your status is now considered to be furloughed.
Apprentices who are furloughed (granted a leave of absence) are permitted to continue with their training where their provider can continue to deliver this remotely.
Where Apprentices are placed on unpaid leave (not furloughed), or where the nature of their employment changes and no longer supports their Apprenticeship, a break in learning could be considered.
This will need to be discussed between you, the employer and IPS if a break in learning is the right option, plus a discussion on any queries around Ts &Cs including wages etc.
Your Apprenticeship will then resume when you are back at work.
For more information on what Furlough is and what it does. (Go to the Employer section – Q7.)
Q6: Can training continue if I have been furloughed?
A6: Yes, where Apprentices are furloughed, they can continue to train for their Apprenticeships, as long as it does not provide services to/or generate revenue for their employer.
Q7: Why should I continue my learning if I can’t attend my place of work?
A7: We do not want the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic 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.
IPS Guidance: This is a good opportunity to complete off-the-job training requirements.
Q8: If I can’t work/attend training, will I still be paid?
A8: An Apprenticeship is a job with training, so even when you are not able to do your training, you are still employed. You will be paid in line with the details in your employment contract.
Where you are unable to work, we suggest speaking to your employer about their policies on pay. The government is providing a range of support to employers to help them retain and pay the wages of employees (including Apprentices) during the coming months with furlough. Please see Q5 for more information on this.
Q9: What happens during a period of unpaid leave in terms of monies. Do I have access to Universal Credit?
A9: 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 a lesser number of hours could increase the rate of Universal Credit entitlement.
Apprentices on unpaid leave may also be eligible for other benefits. Find here.
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 during this crisis. HMRC will reimburse 80% of furloughed workers wage costs, up to a cap of £2,500 per month.
If an Apprentice is furloughed on minimum wage, please note the employer will need to top up the Government’s 80% of the wage with the rest of the 20 % to make sure the wage is still in the minimum wage realms. From 1st April this will be £4.15 an hour.
Q10: My employer is laying me off/making me redundant. What happens to my Apprenticeship?
A10: Contact IPS and we will support you through this, if you are made redundant, your Apprenticeship training may be able to continue and we may still be able to offer training, based on your circumstances, in the short term, IPS can also support you in trying to find a new employer.
Apprenticeship funding rules already make provision for Apprentices who are made redundant, so that wherever possible they can continue their Apprenticeship and proceed to end-point assessment.
Q11: I am on a fixed-term contract, which would ordinarily have given enough time to complete the training and the end-point assessment. If the training is delayed, and I have not completed my EPA before I leave employment, can I do the end-point assessment afterwards?
A11: You should be employed when you are taking your end-point assessment so, where a break in learning has been necessary, and the planned end-date for your apprenticeship has had to move back, please speak to your employer and training provider. We’d expect them to work with you to reschedule your training, which may also include reviewing your apprenticeship agreement and commitment statement. We will keep this under review as the situation evolves.
Apprentice Standards: End point Assessment
Q12: What will happen if I am not well enough to take my end-point assessment?
A12: If you are unwell, self-isolating or unable to attend your end-point assessment, please contact IPS as soon as you are able, to allow us maximum time to re-schedule your assessment.
Q13: Where the end-point assessment plan states that assessment must be conducted face-to-face, but cannot be under the current circumstances, can these be conducted remotely?
A13: Where an assessment method requires face-to-face engagement, this can be conducted remotely, subject to the following conditions:
- Arrangements are cleared in advance by the EQA provider
- The Apprentice’s identity is verified
- Remote tests are supervised by an appropriately trained invigilator or assessor: who has the necessary qualification training and has not been involved in the training, preparation or line management of the Apprentice
- Appropriate technology and systems are in place
- The impact that remote assessment may have on Apprentices is to be taken into consideration, to ensure a fair and reliable assessment of occupational competence
- Where alternatives are not appropriate, a pause and rescheduling might be the only action. An extension of 12 weeks is allowable for those Endpoint Assessment Plans (EPA)where a time limit is specified from gateway to EPA. It is to be logged on and shared with EQAPs on a timely basis
Q14: If the current situation continues for a long period of time, would the ESFA consider awarding the Apprenticeship without the end-point assessment?
A14: The ESFA would not consider this to be appropriate at the current time. The intention is to safeguard the quality of Apprenticeships, and currently believe that the EPA is an important part of that.
End-point assessment organisations are encouraged to advise the ESFA if they are cancelling or postponing EPAs for us to monitor the impact.
Q15: I have been furloughed, can I still take my end-point assessment?
A15: Yes, where Apprentices are furloughed, you can sit EPA providing that you meet the conditions for furloughed Apprentices.
Q1: Due to business continuity measures all staff are required to be available at their usual place of work. How can my Apprentices continue their learning?
A1: Contact IPS about the best options for your Apprentices.
If your Apprentices are unable to attend their scheduled learning events, there are several options available to you:
- Apprentices could engage in digital or remote 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 4 weeks or more and re-calculate the planned end-date upon their return to learning
Q2: I am having to move staff into different and/or business critical roles that aren’t related to their Apprenticeship. What happens to their Apprenticeship?
A2: If an Apprentice’s role is changing then you will need to get in touch with IPS and we can discuss the new role and if this still links to the Apprenticeship, so that training can still continue.
It is our goal that Apprentices can promptly resume their Apprenticeship and continue to successful completion of end-point assessment. Funding rules currently state that a break in learning must be initiated by the Apprentice. Employers and Training Providers can now temporarily also report and initiate a break in learning where the interruption to learning is greater than 4 weeks.
If that move becomes permanent, you can liaise with IPS in the usual way and what Apprenticeship would be more relevant to place the Apprentice on.
Q3: I am having to move critical staff into different and/or business critical roles that are connected to their Apprenticeship. Can they continue training?
A3: Again get in touch with IPS and we can guide you on this.
Where Apprentices can remain on their programme, they should continue to fulfil the minimum 20% off-the-job training entitlement. Off-the-job training can already be delivered flexibly at a time and way to suit the employer and Apprentice (remote observations, distance learning etc) 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.
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.
Q4: When an Apprentice is working from home, can we count anything they do as off-the-job training?
A4: 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 employees 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.
Q5: If my Apprentice continues to do off-the-job training, can this be more than one day a week?
A5: 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.
Q6: What do I do if I think an Apprentice is not well enough to work (especially in a health setting)?
A6: Employers should follow the government’s guidance for employers and businesses on coronavirus (COVID-19).
Q7: Will levy payments be paused for employers?
A7: The Apprenticeship levy is an important part of the Government’s aim to raise Apprenticeship quality, supporting employers to make a long-term, sustainable investment in training. Due to this, HM Treasury have no current plans to pause the collection of the apprenticeship levy because of the COVID-19 disruption. The Chancellor has set out an unprecedented package of support for businesses and employers which stands ready to announce further action wherever necessary.
Q8: Will the ESFA be increasing the time avaliable to employers to spend their levy funds?
A8: Employers already have 24 months in which to spend their levy funds before these expire. For now there is no plans for changes to the current arrangements.
Q9: I am a Non-Levy paying employer recruiting for/having Apprentices due to start. Can I still go ahead and reserve funds on the system?
A9: Employers who do not pay the Apprenticeship Levy are able to reserve Apprenticeship funding through the Apprenticeship Service in line with the published guidance. If you need help and support with this, contact IPS and we can help.
Q10: What happens to my funding reservation as a Non-Levy employer, if my Apprentice can’t start?
A10: Reservations will expire if they are not turned into a commitment within 3 months of the Apprenticeship start date, detailed in the reservation. Where a commitment is needed, and a previous reservation has expired, a new reservation must first be made.
Q11: Should employers use the ‘Stop’ or ‘Pause’ Apprentice facility in the Apprenticeship Service?
A11: In circumstances related to COVID-19, employers should use the ‘Pause’ function in the service. Using ‘Pause’ will stop payments temporarily and allow the Apprenticeship to be picked back up later. The ‘Stop’ function must only be used when certain that training will not resume at any point.
If you contact IPS, we can confirm the best solution for you.
Q12: What happens if we furlough an Apprentice?
A12: A furloughed employee can take part in volunteer work or training, as long as it does not provide services to or generate revenue for, or on behalf of the employer. Training in this context includes Apprenticeship off-the-job training.
Where their provider can continue to deliver training remotely, a furloughed Apprentice can therefore continue their Apprenticeship whilst furloughed.
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 during this crisis. In most cases, the furlough payment of 80% of a worker’s wage, up to the value of £2,500, will provide sufficient monies to cover these training hours. However, where the furlough payment does not meet the appropriate minimum wage for the time spent training, employers will need to pay the additional wages to make sure the wage is still in the minimum wage realms. Please note that in April the minimum wage increases,
More information on furlough:
Visit the https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus select the Employment and Financial Support Tab.
Q13: Can an employer recruit a new member of staff into the business as an Apprentice?
A13: Yes, an employer can recruit and start Apprenticeships as they would have done prior to COVID-19, if all personal and programme eligibility funding rules can be met and the provider is still able to support this activity.
It is important to note that an employer can only claim for furloughed employees that were on the PAYE payroll on or before 19 March 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.
Q14: Can an existing member of staff start an Apprenticeship whilst they are furloughed?
A14: 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. The Employer and Provider would have to discuss and consider how to assure the ESFA of the identity and eligibility of the individual and how they would carry out the initial assessment.
Information and guidance will be changing through these difficult times, stay up to date on the GOV Website.