Guidance on providing apprenticeships during Covid-19 issued

Out-Law News | 17 Jun 2020 | 2:45 pm | 2 min. read

Guidance on how employers and apprenticeship training providers can make it easier for apprentices to continue their studies during the coronavirus pandemic has been published

The guidance, published by the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA), also confirms temporary changes to the funding rules; sets out the position for apprentices who have been furloughed under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS); and provides further details about how training providers should record disrupted training due to the impact of the pandemic.

ESFA has put measures in place until further notice to make it easier for apprenticeships to continue, with changes where necessary; as well as for apprentices to take a break and resume their apprenticeship at a later date.

Employment law expert Matt McDonald of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law, said: "The ESFA's guidance provides some welcome and much-needed clarification regarding many of the practical implications that apprentices, employers and training providers have been grappling with during the pandemic, including around disruption of training and funding rules".

"The hope is that, with lockdown measures being eased over the coming weeks and months, a gradual return to normality can be achieved and that any long-term impact on apprenticeships is kept to a minimum," he said.

The guidance states that employers, training providers and assessment providers should make use of distance learning tools and remote teaching methods where possible. End-point assessments (EPAs) should ideally take place remotely, allowing apprentices to stay at home.

McDonald Matt July_2019

Matt McDonald

Senior Associate

The hope is that, with lockdown measures being eased over the coming weeks and months, a gradual return to normality can be achieved and that any long-term impact on apprenticeships is kept to a minimum

Apprentices will once again be able to attend training in educational settings, including training centres within employer providers, from 15 June. Apprentices aged between 16 and 19 should be prioritised for any face-to-face training, according to the guidance.

Apprentices who have been furloughed by their employer can still continue with their training where the training provider can deliver this remotely, provided apprentices are not providing services to or generating revenue for the employer, according to the guidance. The apprentice will be entitled to be paid the appropriate minimum wage for any training time. A break in learning may be appropriate if the apprentice has been placed on unpaid leave, rather than furlough.

The guidance also provides further details about how training providers should record disrupted training due to the impact of the pandemic during March and April. The apprenticeship funding rules already include details for disruption in learning; for example, to cover situations where apprentices are sick and cannot attend training. Under the funding rules, if there is a break in learning of more than four weeks, the employer or training provider must report this break to the ESFA, and payments to the training provider will be suspended for the duration of the break.

Following a temporary change to the funding rules, employers and training providers, as well as apprentices themselves, will be able to initiate a break in learning if the interruption to learning will be more than four weeks. Apprentices may now pause their apprenticeship for less than four weeks, without affecting the planned end date of their apprenticeship, if, for example, they fall ill or are self-isolating.

Training providers will continue to be paid retrospectively by ESFA for any training they have delivered and which they can provide evidence of. All data should be submitted as usual via the monthly individual learner records (ILRs), and records should be retained