UK Government is encouraging apprentices to continue with their training whilst they are furloughed. But what does this mean for apprentices?
What does furlough mean for apprentices and their training?
A furloughed apprentice is temporarily laid off, or placed in a period of unpaid leave - employers must write to affected apprentices to let them know they have been furloughed.
A furloughed apprentice like any other employee can remain on an employer's payroll and be ready to start work again once circumstances change. Unfortunately, those who have been furloughed are affected by a loss of income during the furlough period.
UK employers have been offered government grants to cover 80% of wages (up to a maximum of £2,500 per person / month before tax) for staff on their payroll who have been furloughed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Employers can choose to top up this pay.
The government grants will be available for at least three months from 1 March 2020, although funds will not be reimbursed to companies until at least the end of April 2020.
Apprentices are encouraged to continue training during the furlough period.
Unless the apprentice has been placed on a break in learning, apprenticeship training providers should continue to support apprentices during any furlough period to:
remain engaged in their apprenticeship;
continue with off-the-job training and increase off-the-job hours; and
ensure they are continuing to gain the knowledge needed to meet the standard they are working towards.
Employees who have been furloughed can't work - but training during an apprenticeship is classed as work. How does this impact apprentices and their wages whilst training?
Apprentices are permitted to continue training whilst furloughed and are encouraged to do so. However, those who do must be paid at least the national living wage / national minimum wage for the time spent training. Any hours an apprentice spends on their apprenticeship may need to be subsidised to the national apprenticeship wage or the national minimum wage if they have already completed the first year of their apprenticeship (click here for the latest national minimum wage rates).
This means that an apprentice who receives furloughed wages (80% of their pay) which are less than the national apprenticeship wage or national minimum wage (depending on which applies) must be paid the appropriate national wage for the age and stage of apprenticeship for any training hours they undertake during the furlough period.
For example, if an apprentice spends 3 hours a day training / working on their apprenticeship, then they must be paid at least the national minimum wage for 3 hours - they can be paid the furloughed rate for the remaining non-work hours.
Considering a break in learning.
For employers who are unable to pay the appropriate minimum wage rate, apprenticeship training providers are able to issue a break in learning for apprentices of up to 12 weeks. The break in learning period will be added on to the end of the apprenticeship, extending the likely completion date, once they are able to resume their apprenticeship.