Levy guidance welcomed by some, questioned by others

Updated guidance on the apprenticeships levy has received a mixed reaction, with one body welcoming details and a charity group expressing concerns.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) released the guidance for employers last week.

It clarifies some aspects of the levy, to be introduced next year, including: issuing a timetable for its implementation; details of the 10 per cent additional funding the government will give to employers providing apprentice schemes; and more on the Digital Apprenticeship Service that will provide access to information on apprenticeships and the levy.


Blessing or curse?

Apprenticeship levy: how it will work’ also clarifies what will count as an apprentice:

  • they must be employed in a real job; they may be an existing employee or a new hire
  • they must work towards achieving an approved apprenticeship standard or apprenticeship framework
  • their training must last at least 12 months
  • they must spend at least 20 per cent of their time on off-the-job training.

The Chartered Management Institute welcomed the guidance, since the levy will be brought into practice in less than a year’s time. Director of strategy and external affairs, Petra Wilton, said: “Employers have less than 12 months to put their plans in place, and so a concise guide to announcements to date on the levy is to be welcomed.

“The guide sets out a clear timetable, and employers need to act now to take full advantage of available skills funding.

“Apprenticeships are a highly cost effective route for workforce training, but will require new relationships and a fresh approach.”

But Angelica Finnegan, senior policy and public affairs officer at the Charity Finance Group, expressed concerns that charities will not be able to redirect the funds they raise through the levy for at least a year.


No safety net for charities

In addition, she said, the guidance provides no reassurance that charities would be protected from their levy funds being directed to the private sector, and no information on how employers – including charities – can become training providers.

She told HR Magazine: “Without being a registered provider charities will not be able to spend the levy on costs of in-house training that they might provide. This will either result in them not using this training which they have invested in, or having to pay for both.”

Moreover, because apprenticeships are a devolved issue, all the nations of the UK will determine how to manage their own programmes, potentially causing funding problems for charities that employ people across Britain.

How this will work in practice has not been decided yet, and employers will only be assessed in early 2017, leaving charities just a few months’ preparation time before the levy is brought in.