The Education & Skills Funding Agency announced, on 23 March, new measures for the apprenticeship programme and the apprentices, employers, training providers and assessment organisations being impacted by COVID-19. The detailed guidance can be found here and contains a useful and comprehensive Frequently Asked Questions section.
The new measures, which will be in place for the duration of the pandemic, make it easier for apprentices to continue and complete their apprenticeships. The new measures allow for the apprentice to take a break from their learning, for changes to be made to their learning or assessment plan, and for the employer to temporarily redeploy the apprentice to a different role in the business without the apprenticeship ending.
The changes announced cover:
Breaks in learning
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.
Payments to training providers
Apprenticeship training providers will continue to be paid retrospectively for the training they have delivered and can evidence. Data should continue to be submitted via monthly ILR submissions and records retained for compliance and audit checks.
Arrangements for disrupted training delivery in March
Where training has been delivered in March, but a break in learning has begun, or is expected to start before the end of March, to ensure payment for these apprentices training providers should:
· include these learners in their March ILR submission as on programme
· record, retain and submit evidence in the usual way
· record a break in learning in their April ILR submission
· ensure that these learners are not recorded as permanently withdrawn from their apprenticeship, by entering the ‘Completion status’ field of the ILR as ‘6’, denoting that the learner has temporarily withdrawn from learning due to an agreed break in learning
Training, which cannot be delivered in March, but for which the training provider receives payment, should be delivered within the remainder of the apprenticeship, and the previously agreed total cost of the apprenticeship, before the planned end date. Where some training has been delivered in March, levy-paying employers should not use the apprenticeship service to ‘pause’ or ‘stop’ payments to the training provider or this will result in the training provider not receiving any payment for these apprentices.
Arrangements for April and beyond
For a break in learning greater than 4 weeks that begins on or after 1 April:
· the training provider should report this in their April ILR submission, or in the month in which the break of learning commenced
· the apprenticeship should be ‘paused’ by the employer through the apprenticeship service at the point the break in learning begins. The employer should not ‘stop’ the apprenticeship through the apprenticeship service as this will prevent it resuming subsequently.
Training providers will not receive funding payments for apprentices during a break in learning. When the apprentice, training provider and employer are all ready for the apprenticeship to resume (after the COVID-19 pause), training providers should update their ILR data in line with section 5.4 in the training provider support manual, to ensure accurate recording and earnings calculations.
For the avoidance of doubt, during breaks in learning it is not necessary for apprentices to comply with the minimum of 20% off-the-job training requirement. When the break in learning ends and training resumes, the 20% off-the-job training requirement will apply over the remaining amended duration of the apprenticeship.
Disruption to assessment
Flexibilities have been introduced to enable apprentices to complete their apprenticeship in the event of disruption to assessment, either separately to, or as well as, disruption to training and employment. Details on the delivery of assessment can be found here and in the FAQ section of the above guidance.
Disruption to employment
Where apprentices are furloughed or placed on unpaid leave, or where the nature of their employment changes and no longer supports their apprenticeship, the apprentice, employer and training provider should consider whether a break in learning would be appropriate. Where an apprentice is made redundant, the training provider must support the apprentice to find another employer.
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