The Association of Employment and Learning Providers has criticised the government’s coronavirus support package for training providers as it excludes programmes that are funded by the apprenticeship levy, which the union claimed was “discriminatory”.
On Friday (April 24), the government unveiled a financial support scheme to help providers continue to deliver training programmes for existing learners and employers, as well as enable new learners to enrol.
However, this funding will not apply to apprenticeships where the employer pays the apprenticeship levy, a tax on employers to help fund the development and delivery of apprenticeships.
Only employers that pay more than £3m in wages are liable to pay the levy, at a rate of 0.5 per cent of their pay bill.
AELP has said it has now sought legal advice on this omission, on the grounds that it was discriminatory.
Chief executive of the AELP, Mark Dawe, said while the funding on offer was a “step in the right direction”, more needs to be done to ensure all apprenticeships are protected during this time.
He said: “Our initial legal advice is that this claim is discriminatory against the apprentices outside the scope of today’s package and there are strong grounds for a challenge, but AELP shouldn’t have to be going down this route.
“The adversely affected apprentices are innocent parties in all this and it shouldn’t matter where they are doing their training if it means that their programmes can continue uninterrupted.
“Similarly, levy paying employers shouldn’t be forced to change their chosen training provider in this critical period if the lack of support means that the provider gets into financial difficulty.”
The government's relief scheme will apply to activity undertaken in April, May and June and paid in the subsequent month.
The amount of support provided will be based on an assessment of need and the government will calculate a funding cap for each training provider requesting support from the scheme.
The funding cap will be applied to the amount requested by the training provider and will be based on a three-month average using the individualised learner record submission for January, February and March 2020.
The AELP has said the government should provide across the board support for all apprenticeships, traineeships and study programmes as no Treasury bailout will be necessary.
This is because the programme budgets for 2020-21 are already set with the department for Education, waiting to be used in accordance with the Cabinet Office guidelines, according to the AELP.
Mr Dawe said: “Every apprentice and learner on a government funded education and skills programme should be entitled to the same support however the funding flows.
“Therefore ministers should follow up [the] announcement quickly with a further package for levy funded apprenticeships and the other skills programmes.”
Earlier this month (April 9), FTAdviser reported adviser networks were continuing to offer apprenticeships and training despite the current crisis.
Both Tenet and the Personal Finance Society have moved their training online in order to minimise the impact on trainees who are mid-way through their programmes, while also accepting new learners onto their programmes.