We're all adapting to the new normal - trying to make sense out of these unforeseeable and ever-changing circumstances. There is a lot of information out there about furloughing, but where do apprentices fit into this guidance?
When an employee is furloughed as part of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, their employer can claim 80% of the employee's full-time salary costs, up to £2,500 a month, plus National Insurance and employer pension contributions (if applicable). The employee is then placed on leave for an agreed period. The minimum furlough period is 3 weeks.
Can apprentices train while on furlough?
The short answer is yes. Apprentices can continue to train while they are on furlough, however there are a couple of caveats to keep in mind:
In the Government guidelines, "training" for apprentices refers to off-the-job training, such as the technical training units and additional courses delivered by Baltic.
Informal, on-the-job training isn't allowed. For example, your apprentice wouldn't be able to provide services to - or generate revenue for - your business while they were on furlough. This is in line with the guidance for other employees: essentially employees can't "work" in a traditional sense whilst their wages are being claimed from the Job Retention fund.
The second caveat is related to wages. When taking part in training, furloughed apprentices are entitled to be paid at least the Apprenticeship Minimum Wage/National Living Wage/National Minimum Wage (as appropriate) for the time they spend training. Employers can still claim the 80% from the Job Retention fund, but you must cover any shortfall between the amount claimed and the appropriate minimum wage for your employee.
This rule only applies to the time spent training, so if you apprentice is training for less than 80% of their usual working hours, this top up may not always be required. The ESFA have released some useful worked examples to show how this rule would apply in different circumstances.
At Baltic, we recommend that our apprentices are paid above the Apprenticeship Minimum Wage, so there is a chance that this condition may not have an impact on you.
What options are available for employers?
It's important to check with your training provider to see if they can offer your apprentices additional resources and flexibility during this time. Every provider is different and may offer different levels of support.
If you have employees on programme with Baltic Apprenticeships, they can benefit from our enhanced support package. Taking your individual circumstances into account, we can provide personal support for you and your apprentices. This could include additional training courses, including industry-recognised MTA certifications, access to self-paced software-specific training, and flexible scheduling for our technical training modules, so it is possible to front-load your apprentices' training and get ahead on assessments during this time.
Should I furlough my apprentice?
Only you and your colleagues can answer that question. We understand that the decision to furlough an employee isn't something to be taken lightly, and there are a lot of factors to consider in each case.
Financially, furloughing apprentices could be the only option available in many cases, especially for businesses unable to generate their usual revenue during this time. If necessary, an apprentice can be furloughed for a short period and participate in training to maintain engagement, motivation and loyalty.