Coronavirus (COVID-19): Guidance for Apprentices, Employers, Training Providers, End-Point Assessment Organisations and External Quality Assurance Providers (Extract for Employers) – Publication Date 23/3/20

This document is an extract covering the questions and answers for employers taken from the ESFA document that sets out guidance for apprentices, employers, training providers and assessment organisations in response to the impact of COVID-19. It outlines the changes that the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) is making to the apprenticeship programme during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

The full document is extensive and is described as “technical” and can be seen via the link below. It will allow you to see what was advised to providers and apprentices, this may help with questions that you may have, that are not that contained below.

 

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-apprenticeship- programme-response/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-for-apprentices-employers-training- providers-end-point-assessment-organisations-and-external-quality-assurance-pro

 

With the introduction of urgent government measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19, and a rapidly developing situation, these guidelines reflect arrangements applied at the current time. This guidance will be kept under active review and updated regularly with further developments.

 

General information

These are difficult times for employers, apprentices, and providers of apprenticeship training and assessment. As part of the cross-government efforts to respond to the impact of COVID- 19, the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) is implementing new measures, for the duration of the pandemic, to make it easier for apprenticeships to continue and complete in a different way, if they need to or to break and resume an apprenticeship later when that becomes possible.

 

Frequently asked questions and further information (Employer version), question numbers are taken from the original document, see the link above.

 

These questions and answers will be updated regularly in line with advice from central government, the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) and Public Health England (PHE).

 

For queries not covered by this guidance, please read the full guidance first, see link above, or contact the apprenticeship service helpline. They can be contacted by telephone on 0800 0150 600 or email helpdesk@manage-apprenticeships.service.gov.uk.

 

Changes to learning and employment

This section covers anything that affects how learning will be conducted and breaks in learning activity.

 

1.  The Apprentice needs to self-isolate, what will happen to the apprenticeship?

 

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

 

Options include:

 

  • an increase in e-learning
  • a short pause of less than 4 weeks in the apprenticeship while they are in self- isolation. This will not affect the planned end-date of the apprenticeship
  • a formal break in learning of 4 weeks or more that your training provider should report to the ESFA. 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 you the employer, the apprentice and your training provider’s situation.

 

2.  The apprentice needs to take care of themselves/or a family member. Can they continue their apprenticeship learning at home?

 

Yes, this may be possible, depending on the apprenticeship and whether e-learning is available from your training provider. Please check their website or contact them to discuss your options.

 

3.  As an employer I am enforcing a work from home policy and classroom provision has been withdrawn. What are the options?

 

If the apprentice is unable to attend scheduled learning events, there are several options available to the apprentice with your support:

 

  • your training provider may provide digital or distance learning
  • the apprentice can take a short pause if it is likely the apprenticeship can resume in less than 4 weeks, and the apprentice will still be able to complete the apprenticeship by the planned end-date
  • the apprentice, agreed with yourself, can take a formal break in learning of 4 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, to take into consideration the duration of the break

 

Please talk to your apprentice and training provider to agree the appropriate steps for your circumstances.

 

4.  As an employer I am asking the apprentice to take a period of unpaid leave, what happens to the apprenticeship during that time?

 

Where the apprentice is no longer able to work, but has not been made redundant, the apprentice can take a break from the apprenticeship and resume when they return to work.

 

You as the employer must make it clear that you intend to restart them. Please get in touch with your training provider who will inform us of a break in learning.

 

Once they are back at work, they can resume their apprenticeship, which your training provider can help with too. Apprentices should refer any queries around terms and conditions, including wages, to you the employer in the first instance.

 

The ACAS website may also be a good source of information.

 

5.  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 during this crisis. HMRC will reimburse 80% of furloughed workers wage costs, up to a cap of £2,500 per month.

 

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 a lesser number of hours could increase the rate of Universal Credit entitlement.

 

Apprentices on unpaid leave may also be eligible for other benefits.

 

6.  How does the apprentice record progress towards their apprenticeship whilst subject to different working conditions like working from home?

 

You as the employer and the apprentice will already be recording off-the-job training activity using an approach agreed with your training provider. Please continue to use this in the coming weeks. 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 training provider to agree a break in learning.

 

7.  As an employer I am laying the apprentice off/making them redundant. What happens to the apprenticeship?

 

Please speak to your training provider, if your apprentice is made redundant as the 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 the apprentice in finding a new employer.

 

8.  If the apprentice can’t work/attend training, do they need to be paid?

 

An apprenticeship is a job with training, so even when they are not able to do their training, they are still employed. They should be paid in line with the details in your employment contract.

 

Where they are unable to work, we suggest they should be speaking to you as employer about your polices on pay. The government is providing a range of support to employers to help you retain and pay the wages of employees (including apprentices) during the coming months.

9.  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?

 

If your apprentices are unable to attend their scheduled learning events, there are several options available to you:

 

  • 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 4 weeks or more and re-calculate the planned end-date upon their return to learning

 

10.  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?

 

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 should look to see which alternative apprenticeship your apprentice can transfer to at Find Apprenticeship Training and liaise with your training provider in the usual way.

 

11.  What do I do if I think an apprentice is not well enough to work (especially in a health setting)?

 

Employers should follow the government’s guidance for employers and businesses on coronavirus (COVID-19).

 

12.  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?

 

Employers who do not pay the apprenticeship levy are able to reserve apprenticeship funding through the apprenticeship service in line with the published guidance.

 

13.  What happens to my funding reservation as a non-levy employer, if my apprentice can’t start?

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.

 

15.  Should employers use the ‘Stop’ or ‘Pause’ apprentice facility in the apprenticeship service?

 

In circumstances related to COVID-19, employers should use the ‘Pause’ function in the service. Employers must only use the ‘Stop’ function when they are certain that training will not resume at any point. Using ‘Pause’ will stop payments temporarily and allow the employer and apprentice to resume the apprenticeship at a later date. We are reviewing options to simplify the process of re-starting apprentices on the service, including to facilitate a transfer to a different apprenticeship or employer in due course.

 

Pause or stop an apprenticeship for employers using the Apprenticeship service from the following link

 

https://help.apprenticeships.education.gov.uk/hc/en-gb/articles/360009509360-Pause-or-stop-an- apprenticeship

 

 Please read all the question and answers above, prior to deciding to pause or stop an apprenticeship, if you decide to use the pause function, delivery will be paused or if you use stop function, the apprenticeship will be ended. Please note the Government is encouraging employer and providers to continue Apprenticeships or consider pausing them, see break in learning below, before ending apprenticeships.

 

You can only pause or stop an apprenticeship if you have one of the following types of permission in the organisation’s apprenticeship account:

 

  • able to make changes
  • full access

 

Pausing an apprenticeship

 

You should pause an apprenticeship when you need to:

 

  • record a break in learning (including a change in circumstances)
  • freeze future payments to a training provider for a period of time

 

If you pause an apprenticeship incorrectly, we will backdate any payments to your training provider. You must cancel the pause and the training provider must submit their Individualised Learner Record (ILR).

 

Stopping an apprenticeship

 

You should stop an apprenticeship when you need to:

 

  • change the training provider during the course
  • change the employer during the course
  • cancel the apprenticeship
  • cancel all future payments

 

You must tell your training provider before you make any changes, so they can record them in their ILR.

 

You must not stop an apprenticeship that is completed

 

Changes to assessment

This section covers all questions related to completion of the apprenticeship.

 

16.  The Apprentice is 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 they have not completed their EPA before they leave employment, can they do the end-point assessment afterwards?

 

They should be employed when taking the end-point assessment so, where a break in learning has been necessary, and the planned end-date for the apprenticeship has had to move back, they need to speak to you the employer and training provider. The ESFA expect employer will work with learner/training provider to reschedule their training, which may also include reviewing the apprenticeship agreement and commitment statement. The ESFA will keep this under review as the situation evolves.

 

17.  What will happen if the apprentice is not well enough to take the end-point assessment?

 

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

 

18.  Gateways are being delayed and my apprentice cannot complete the end- point assessment in the required time frame. Can we extend the EPA timeframe due to the current disruption?

Apprentices who are deemed ready for assessment, and cannot be assessed due to assessor illness, or Covid-19 related measures, are allowed to take a break before taking their EPA, and for the EPA to be rescheduled.

 

If the EPA timeframe needs to be extended beyond what is allowed in the assessment plan (where specified), EPAOs are responsible for agreeing extensions to EPA timeframes during the current disruption. EPAOs should work closely with EQAPs to ensure quality of EPA is maintained. For apprentices whose Gateway is being delayed, the training provider must report this as a break in learning in the ILR.

 

19.  Where the end-point assessment plan states that assessment must be conducted face-to-face, but cannot be under the current circumstances, can they be conducted remotely?

 

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 qualifications, training or experience
    • who 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.

 

20.  How will invigilation of assessments be conducted remotely?

 

Remote tests should be supervised by an appropriately trained invigilator, or assessor who has the necessary qualifications, training or experience, and who has not been involved in the training, preparation or line management of the apprentice.

 

Tests must only be carried out within a supervised and controlled environment. EPAOs must ensure all testing meets security requirements, and that the details of invigilators are recorded and available for confirmation by EQAPs.

21.  If the current situation continues for a long period of time, would you consider awarding the apprenticeship without the end-point assessment?

 

The ESFA would not consider this to be appropriate at the current time. The intention is to safeguard the quality of apprenticeships, and at this time we (the ESFA) 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 in order for us to monitor the impact. The ESFA will be contacting EPAOs directly and updating the guidance with further information mechanisms for informing us shortly.

 

DfE coronavirus helpline

 

Telephone 0800 046 8687

 

If you have a query about coronavirus (COVID-19), relating to schools and other educational establishments in England contact our helpline.

 

Lines are open Monday to Friday from 8am to 6pm and weekends 10am to 4pm.