Apprentice and Employer FAQs

East Sussex College is committed to supporting our apprentices and employers to progress with their programmes during the COVID-19 outbreak.

We are continuously reviewing and updating our systems and processes to provide the best and most flexible learning experience possible for these challenging times.

This resource has been designed to support our apprentices and employers by providing detailed information on a range of circumstances which you may be facing related to your apprenticeship programme.

If you cannot find your answers here please send your questions to your assessor who will pass it on to our Apprenticeship Management team who will do all they can to answer your query.

Please continue to check this page as it will be updated as new information becomes available.

East Sussex College approach to supporting Apprentices during COVID-19

The Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) is implementing new measures, for the duration of the Covid-19 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.

East Sussex College and Sussex Skills Solutions approach to learning in the current situation is:

  • Delivering training to apprentices remotely and via e-learning as far as is practicable
  • Using remote end-point assessment arrangements wherever practicable and possible
  • Ensuring that apprentices ready for assessment, but who cannot be assessed due to COVID-19 issues, can have their end-point assessment rescheduled.
  • Providing extensions to the assessment timeframe if Gateway needs to be delayed
  • Initiating a break in learning where the interruption to learning due to COVID-19 is greater than four weeks
  • Communicating breaks in learning to our levy employers so that funding claims are correct
  • Confirming that, where apprentices are made redundant, it is our ambition to find them alternative employment and continue their apprenticeship as quickly as possible and within 12 weeks

Please note we may update these details from time to time as we are continue to be informed by the ESFA.

Frequently asked questions and further information

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 contact employertraining@sussexdowns.ac.uk to speak with one of the East Sussex College Apprenticeship team or contact the National Apprenticeship Service helpline who can be contacted by telephone on 0800 150 600 or email helpdesk@manage-apprenticeships.service.gov.uk.

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

Changes to learning and employment

1. If I need to self-isolate, what will happen to my apprenticeship?
If you need to self-isolate, please talk to your employer and assessor about the best way to continue with your apprenticeship, or report a break in learning.
Options include:
• an increase in online learning
• a short pause of less than 4 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 4 weeks or more. 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 and your employer situation.

2. I need to take care of myself/a family member. Can I continue my apprenticeship learning at home?
Yes, this will be possible using online learning and telephone/Skype support. Please contact your assessor for further information.

3. My employer is enforcing a work from home policy and my classroom provision has been withdrawn. What are my options?
East Sussex College will provide digital or distance learning solutions in most cases.

In other cases, agreed with the college, you can take a short pause if it is likely your apprenticeship can resume in less than 4 weeks, and you will still be able to complete your apprenticeship by the planned end-date.

If it is not possible to support you from home the college can agree to introduce a formal break in learning of 4 weeks or more resulting in the planned end-date of your apprenticeship being re-planned upon returning to learning, to take into consideration the duration of your break.

Please talk to your assessor to agree the right approach for you.

4. My employer is asking me to take a period of unpaid leave, what happens to my apprenticeship during that time?
Where you are no longer able to work, but have not been made redundant, you can take a break from your apprenticeship and resume when you return to work. Please get in touch with your assessor who will put a break in learning in place. Once you are back at work, you can resume your apprenticeship.

You should refer any queries around terms and conditions, including wages, to your employer in the first instance. We would also ask employers to consider using the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme before making apprentices redundant.

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?
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.

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.

6. How do I record progress towards my apprenticeship while I am subject to different working conditions like working from home?
You will already be recording your off-the-job training activity using an approach agreed with your assessor. 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 employer and assessor to agree a break in learning.

7. My employer is laying me off/making me redundant. What happens to my apprenticeship?
Please speak to your assessor who will report the situation to our Apprenticeship Delivery Managers. If you are made redundant, your apprenticeship training may be able to continue. Your assessor may still be able to offer training, based on your circumstances, in the short term. The college may even be able to support you in finding a new employer.

We would urge all employers to consider using 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.

8. 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. 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 polices 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.

9. Due to business continuity measures all staff are required to be available at their usual place of work. How can apprentices continue their learning?
If 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

Please speak with your assessor to plan the best approach for your circumstances.

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. This guidance document sets out what employers and training providers need to do when breaks in learning are more or less than 4 weeks, and if that break commences during or after March.

If that move becomes permanent, you should look to see which alternative apprenticeship your apprentice can transfer to.

Please speak with your assessor if this situation is affecting you.

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?
Yes. Please take guidance from the college as you would for an apprenticeship start in any other circumstances. We will need to enrol your apprentices remotely via skype/phone but a full information, advice and guidance session will still take place ensuring a successful and well planned start for your apprentices.

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.

14. 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.

Levy employers should contact your dedicated account manager for further details

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

Changes to assessment

15. 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?

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 assessor to arrange how best to facilitate the EPA.

16. 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, please contact your assessor as soon as you are able, to allow them maximum time to re-schedule your assessment.

17. Gateways are being delayed and we 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.

18. Where the end-point assessment plan states that assessment must be conducted face-to-face, but cannot be under the current circumstances, can we conduct these 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.

19. 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.

20. If the current situation continues for a long period of time, would you consider awarding the apprenticeship without the end-point assessment?
The Government would not consider this to be appropriate at the current time.

Government measures to support businesses and employees

  • Apprentices and their employers, and training and assessment organisations as businesses, are able to access the government’s package of measures to support businesses to withstand the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak.
  • These 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. As well as ensuring that employers will still have the skills they need for the future, it means that they can temporarily redeploy apprentices without ending their apprenticeship.

Government Guidance on disruption to employment

  • Where apprentices are furloughed (granted a leave of absence) 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 (See section below on breaks in learning).
  • Where apprentices are made redundant, it is our ambition that they will be supported to find alternative employment, and continue their apprenticeship as quickly as possible, and within 12 weeks. We will keep under review whether this 12-week period should be extended.
  • 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. (See P271-P273 in the funding rules for main providers 2019-20 for further details).
  • Where an apprentice is made redundant, the training provider must support the apprentice to find another employer. In instances where a significant number of apprentices are made redundant (for example, because a large employer faces difficulties), the ESFA will attempt to provide exceptional practical support to the apprentices and training providers to secure alternative employers for the individuals.
  • It is hoped that the government’s substantial package of financial support for business will prevent such significant redundancies, but we will keep arrangements under review, and consider whether there are circumstances in which the ESFA may need to provide additional support to apprentices and training providers.

Government guidance regarding disruption to assessment

  • With IFATE and Ofqual, we are introducing flexibilities 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.
  • External Quality Assurance Providers (EQAPs) remain responsible for assuring consistency and quality of assessment. End-point assessment organisations (EPAOs) should engage with EQAPs throughout and agree arrangements in advance where remote assessment replaces face-to-face assessment, or where a simulated environment is to be used.
  • Apprentices who are deemed ready for assessment, and cannot be assessed due to COVID-19 related issues, will be able to have their EPA rescheduled. Where there is a specified time limit for EPA post gateway, a further pause of 12 weeks is allowable.
  • Apprentices whose gateway is being delayed are allowed a break in learning, with an extension to the assessment timeframe. The training provider is required to record this in the ILR.
  • More details of the above direction on the delivery of assessment can be found in the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education’s guidance for COVID-19.

Other Useful Links

Detailed information on the financial support available to businesses is available here from Locate East Sussex:
https://locateeastsussex.org.uk/covid-19
Detailed advice from ACAS for employers and employees related to COVID-19 is available here:
https://www.acas.org.uk/coronavirus