The coronavirus pandemic is presenting a ‘difficult time’ for apprentices, employers and providers of apprenticeship training, assessment and external assurance.

But the Government has reaffirmed its commitment to supporting apprentices and employers to continue to build the skills capabilities the country needs now and in the future.

It says: “In this difficult time, employers and training providers are doing their best for their workforce.

“We want to support that by ensuring that, wherever possible, apprentices can continue and complete their apprenticeship, despite any break they have to take as a result of COVID-19.

“High-quality apprenticeships will be a vital contributor to the economic recovery that will follow the pandemic.

“We are committed to working with training providers, end-point assessment organisations and external quality assurance organisations, to mitigate the impacts of this disruption and maintain the integrity of apprenticeships.”

The support being provided includes:

  • introducing flexibilities to allow furloughed apprentices to continue their training as long as it does not provide services to, or generate revenue for, their employer
  • encouraging training providers to deliver training to apprentices remotely, and via e-learning, as far as is practicable
  • allowing the modification of end-point assessment arrangements, including remote assessments wherever practicable and possible in order to maintain progress and achievement for apprentices
  • clarifying that apprentices ready for assessment, but who cannot be assessed due to coronavirus issues, can have their end-point assessment rescheduled
  • apprentices whose gateway is delayed can have an extension to the assessment time frame
  • enabling employers and training providers to report and initiate a break in learning, where the interruption to learning due to coronavirus is greater than four weeks
  • clarification on how to record breaks in learning so that funding is not unnecessarily disrupted
  • confirming that, where apprentices are made redundant, it is the ambition to find them alternative employment and continue their apprenticeship as quickly as possible and within 12 weeks

“Our flexibilities will make it easier for apprentices to continue as an apprentice, by enabling them to take a break from their learning, or do their learning or assessment in a different way to that originally planned, even if they are put on furlough by their employer.

“As well as ensuring that employers will still have the skills they need for the future, it means they can temporarily redeploy apprentices without ending their apprenticeship.

“Changes we are making are being developed during a time of rapid social and economic developments.

“We are keeping the developing situation, and our guidance, under review,” adds the Government.

Government responses to frequently asked questions from apprentices:

If I need to self-isolate, what will happen to my apprenticeship?

Apprenticeships have been designed to be responsive to changes in apprentices’ circumstances, for example during a period of illness. If you need to self-isolate, talk to your employer and training provider about the best way to continue with your apprenticeship or report a break in learning.

Options include:

  • an increase in e-learning
  • a short pause of less than four weeks in your apprenticeship while you are in self-isolation. This will not affect the planned end-date of your apprenticeship
  • a formal break in learning of four weeks or more that your training provider should report to the Education and Skills Funding Agency. This will result in the planned end-date for your apprenticeship being re-planned upon returning to learning to take into consideration the duration in line with the length of your break
  • re-scheduling planned assessment activity for a later date

The appropriate steps will be agreed based on your and your employer/ training provider’s situation.

I need to take care of myself/a family member. Can I continue my apprenticeship learning at home?

Yes, this may be possible, depending on your apprenticeship and whether e-learning is available from your training provider.

If I can’t work/attend training, will I still be paid?

An apprenticeship is a job with training, so even when you are not able to do your training, you are still employed, unless you have been notified otherwise by your employer. You will be paid in line with the details in your employment contract. The Government is providing a range of support to employers to help them retain and pay the wages of employees (including apprentices).

My employer is enforcing a work from home policy and my classroom provision has been withdrawn. What are my options?

If you are unable to attend scheduled learning events, there are several options:

  • your training provider may provide digital or distance learning
  • you can take a short pause if it is likely your apprenticeship can resume in less than four weeks and you will still be able to complete your apprenticeship by the planned end-date
  • you can take a formal break in learning of four weeks or more which your training provider should report to the ESFA and will result in the planned end-date of your apprenticeship being re-planned upon returning to learning

Talk to your employer and training provider to agree the appropriate steps for your circumstances.

How do I record progress towards my apprenticeship while I am subject to different working conditions like working from home?

You should already be recording your off-the-job training activity using an approach agreed with your training provider. Continue to use this in the coming weeks.

I have been furloughed, can I continue my training?

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.

Will I be paid for continuing my learning if I have been furloughed?

Yes. While furloughed you will still be paid by your employer and pay taxes from your income. While you cannot undertake work for your employer while on furlough you can undertake training. Where training has been required by your employer you should be paid the appropriate minimum wage for the time spent training. This will be covered as part of your furlough payment in the first instance. However, where the time spent training attracts an appropriate minimum wage in excess of the furlough payment you employer should top up your furlough payment.

Why should I continue my learning if I can’t attend my place of work?

The Government does 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.

My employer is making me redundant. What happens to my apprenticeship?

Speak to your training provider if you are made redundant as your apprenticeship training may be able to continue. Your training provider may still be able to offer training, based on your circumstances, in the short term. They may even be able to support you in finding a new employer. If that move becomes permanent, you should look to see which alternative apprenticeship your apprentice can transfer to and liaise with your training provider.

My employer is asking me to take a period of unpaid leave, what happens to my apprenticeship during that time?

Many employers who had planned to ask employees to take unpaid leave will now be able to access financial support fromthe Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to keep you employed. HMRC will reimburse 80% of furloughed workers wage costs, up to a cap of £2,500 per month. Speak to your employer to understand whether you are still being asked to take unpaid leave or if your status is now considered to be furloughed. If you are still being asked to take unpaid leave, then you can take a break from your apprenticeship and resume when you return to work. Get in touch with your training provider, who will inform the Government of a break in learning. Once you are back at work you can resume your apprenticeship.

I am on a fixed-term contract, if the training is delayed and I have not completed my EPA before I leave employment can I do the end-point assessment afterwards?

You must 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, speak to your employer and training provider. The Government expects them to work with you to reschedule your training which may also include reviewing your apprenticeship agreement and commitment statement.

What will happen if I am not well enough to take my end-point assessment?

If you are unwell, or in a period of self-isolation, and unable to attend your end-point assessment, contact your training provider as soon as you are able, to allow them maximum time to re-schedule your assessment.