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Advice for apprentices and apprentice employers

Looking ahead to academic year 2020 / 21

Get the latest update about the autumn term for academic year 2020 / 21 from Vice-Chancellor, Professor Edward Peck.

Read the update from the Vice-Chancellor.


Last updated Tuesday 12 May. Please check back regularly for updates.

We understand that this is a worrying time for everyone, including apprentices, employers and providers of apprenticeship training, assessment and external assurance. We are committed to supporting apprentices and employers to continue building the skills and capabilities the country needs now and in future.

Below you will find FAQs for both apprentices and apprentice employers to help answer any questions or concerns you may have.

You can also get in touch with us and access help via:

Frequently asked questions for apprentices

What is a break in learning?

A break in learning is where apprenticeship learning is disrupted.

If learning is disrupted for a period of less than four weeks then there is no change to the payment of funding or the apprenticeship end date. If learning is disrupted for a period longer than four weeks, a break in learning must be reported for  the apprentice, at which point the payment of funding to the training provider will be suspended for the duration of that break.  A break in learning will result in the planned end date for your apprenticeship being re-scheduled, upon your return to learning, to take into account the duration of your break

If I need to self-isolate, what will happen to my apprenticeship?

If you need to self-isolate, please talk to your employer and the Apprenticeships team at NTU about the best way to continue with your apprenticeship, or report a break in learning. Your options include:

  • accessing NTU's online learning
  • a short pause of less than four weeks in your apprenticeship whilst you are in self-isolation
  • a formal break in learning of four weeks or more
  • re-scheduling planned assessment activity for a later date.

Any appropriate steps will be agreed based on you and your employer's situation.

I need to take care of myself/ a family member. Can I continue my apprenticeship learning at home?

NTU are providing online learning for the majority of its apprenticeships. Your course leader will be in contact if there are different arrangements for the delivery of your apprenticeship. Please contact the Apprenticeships team on the number above to discuss your options.

My employer is enforcing a work from home policy and my classroom-based provision has been withdrawn. What are my options?

If you are able to continue with your job role whilst working from home, and access the online learning that the University is offering for the majority of its apprenticeships, then your apprenticeship can continue. Your course leader will be in contact if there are different arrangements for the delivery of your apprenticeship.

Otherwise, your options are:

  • a short pause if it is likely that your apprenticeship can resume in less than four weeks, and you will still be able to complete your apprenticeship by the planned end date.
  • a formal break in learning of four weeks or more, which will result in the planned end date of your apprenticeship being re-scheduled upon returning to learning.

Please contact your employer and the NTU Apprenticeships team to agree the appropriate steps for your circumstances.

My employer is asking me to take a period of unpaid leave. What happens to my apprenticeship during this time?

Please contact the NTU Apprenticeships team to discuss your individual circumstances. You should refer any queries around terms and conditions, including wages, to your employer in the first instance. The ACAS website is also a good source of information.

What happens to me financially during a period of unpaid leave? Do I have access to Universal Credit?

Universal Credit may be available as long you meet the other conditions of the entitlement (including that the applicant and their partner have savings of under £16,000 between them). Apprentices may be entitled to Universal Credit under the following circumstances:

  • During a period of unpaid leave
  • Even if working and being paid
  • If laid off or on a lesser number of hours.

Apprentices on unpaid leave may also be eligible for other benefits.

How do I record progress towards my apprenticeship whilst I am subject to different working conditions, such as working from home?

Please continue to record your off-the-job training activity using PebblePad. If your work circumstances change because of COVID-19, so that the minimum 20% off-the-job training cannot be met, you will need to liaise with your employer and the NTU Apprenticeships team to discuss your options.

My employer is laying me off/ making me redundant. What happens to my apprenticeship?

Please speak to the NTU Apprenticeships team if you are at risk of redundancy or made redundant as your apprenticeship training may be able to continue, depending on your circumstances.

  • Apprentices who are made redundant within six months of the final day of their practical period may continue their apprenticeship training without being employed under an apprenticeship agreement.
  • Apprentices who are made redundant more than six months before their final day may continue their apprenticeship training for 12 weeks without being employed under an apprenticeship agreement.

We will endeavour to find you alternative employment where possible in order for you to continue with your apprenticeship.

I have been furloughed, can I continue my apprenticeship?

A furloughed employee can take part in volunteer work or training, as long as it does not provide services to or generate revenue for, or on the behalf of, the employer. Training in this context includes apprenticeship off-the-job training.

You can continue your apprenticeship whilst furloughed by accessing NTU's online learning as long as your employer is paying you at least the Apprenticeship Minimum Wage, National Living Wage or National Minimum Wage as appropriate for all the time you spend training. This means that your employer must cover any shortfall between the amount your employer can claim for your wages through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and your appropriate minimum wage. If you are continuing your off-the-job training, this can be more than one day a week where this is agreed with your employer and course team. The 20% minimum off-the-job training requirement over the length of the apprenticeship will still need to be satisfied.

Furloughed apprentices can also sit their end-point assessment providing that they meet the conditions for furloughed apprentices.

If you are furloughed, the NTU Apprenticeships team will ask your employer to confirm that these rules, and Her Majesty's Treasury rules for furlough, are being complied with whilst you continue your apprenticeship training.

If I can't work/ attend training, will I still be paid?

As an apprenticeship is a job with training, you are still employed. You will be paid in line with the details in your employment contract.

Where you are able to work, we suggest speaking to your employer about their policies 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.

Due to business continuity measures, all staff are required to be available at their usual place of work. How can I continue my learning?

NTU is providing online learning for the majority of our apprenticeships to allow apprentices to engage in learning at a convenient time within their agreed work hours. Your course leader will be in contact if there are different arrangements for the delivery of your apprenticeship.

If you are struggling to engage in learning, your options are:

  • you could take a short pause in your learning of less than four weeks and still complete by your planned end date, or
  • you could take a formal break in learning of four weeks or more, with a recalculated planned end date upon your return to learning.

My employer has moved me into a different and/ or business-critical role that isn't related to my apprenticeship. What happens to my apprenticeship?

Please talk to you employer and the NTU Apprenticeships team to agree the appropriate steps for your circumstances. If your job move becomes permanent, please contact the NTU Apprenticeships team to discuss your apprenticeship options.

Will tri-partite review meetings still go ahead?

Tri-partite review meetings are already delivered via a mixture of face-to-face and virtual means. During this time your tri-partite review meetings will be held virtually. Your NTU workplace tutor will be in contact to book your review meeting.

I am on a fixed-term contract, which would ordinarily have given enough time to complete the training and the End-Point Assessment (EPA). If the training is delayed, and I have not completed my EPA before I leave employment, can I do the EPA afterwards?

You should be employed when you are taking your EPA 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 the NTU Apprenticeships team.

What happens to my End-Point Assessment (EPA)?

If you are due to complete your apprenticeship within the next six months, the NTU Apprenticeships team will be in contact with you to discuss the arrangements for your end-point assessment.

Frequently asked questions for apprentice employers

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 guidance for employers and businesses on coronavirus (COVID-19).

I am a non-levy paying organisation recruiting for/ having apprentices due to start. Can I still go ahead and reserve funds on the system?

Employers who do not pay the apprenticeship levy are able to reserve apprenticeship funding through the apprenticeship service in line with the published guidance.

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 three 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.

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 Apprenticeship 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.

Who can request a break in learning?

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 four weeks.

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 Apprenticeship 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. The ESFA have produced a video guide to pausing and stopping records in the Apprenticeship Service.

As an employer, how will I know if I need to top up an employee’s wages if they are furloughed but continuing with their apprenticeship?

If you are requesting that your furloughed employees undertake training, they are entitled to be paid at least their appropriate national minimum wage for this time. In most cases, the furlough payment of 80% of an employee’s regular wage, up to the value of £2,500, will provide sufficient funds to cover these training hours. Where the overall time spent training during the furlough period attracts a minimum wage entitlement in excess of the furlough payment, you will need to pay the additional wages. This is because time spent training is treated as working time for the purposes of the minimum wage calculations, and therefore must be paid at the appropriate rate, taking into account the increase in minimum wage rates from 1 April 2020.

You should consider the hours that an employee is expected to train during the period of the furlough (which must be a three-week minimum) and ensure that the furlough payment provides sufficient funds to cover these training hours. Where a furloughed worker is paid close to minimum wage levels and is being asked to complete training courses for a substantial majority of their usual working time, you are recommended to seek independent advice or contact ACAS.

Can we recruit a new member of staff into the business as an apprentice?

Yes, you can recruit and start apprenticeships as you would have done prior to COVID-19 if all personal and programme eligibility funding rules can be met. It is important to note that you can only claim for furloughed employees that were on the PAYE payroll on or before 19 March 2020. Therefore, it would not be possible for you to recruit an apprentice after this date where the intention is to furlough this person immediately and claim wage support from the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

Can an existing member of staff start an apprenticeship whilst they are furloughed?

Yes, a furloughed member of staff can start an apprenticeship, but they must still meet the learner eligibility and programme eligibility criteria of the apprenticeship funding rules.

Apprenticeships and COVID-19: Information for apprentice employers

Watch our webinar on Apprenticeships and COVID-19: Information for apprentice employers, where our Apprenticeships team explain the new rules for apprenticeship delivery and how this affects your business in relation to COVID-19.

Questions from the webinar

Why would I want to put my apprentice on a break in learning, why wouldn’t I just furlough them and allow the provider to carry on delivering off-the-job training, ergo allowing for funding to come through to the provider?

Breaks in learning are used where the apprenticeship training is disrupted for more than four weeks. The disruption may be a result of the apprentice’s personal circumstances or being unable to undertake off-the-job training due to the pressures of work or being moved to a different job role. Apprentices on a break in learning can continue providing services to or generating revenue for, or on behalf of, the employer. The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme allows employers to furlough employees if an employer cannot maintain their current workforce because their operations have been severely affected by COVID-19.

Guidance from the Education and Skills Funding Agency states that furloughed apprentices can continue with their training where their provider can continue to deliver this remotely. A furloughed employee can take part in volunteer work or training, as long as it does not provide services to or generate revenue for, or on behalf of the employer. Training in this context includes apprenticeship off-the-job training.

Regarding furlough, how does the 80% calculate through to the National Minimum Wage? And how is that paid (per hour, per week, etc)? 

The furlough payment via the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is 80% of a worker’s wage, up to the value of £2,500. This may provide sufficient funds to cover the apprentice’s training hours. Where the furlough payment does not meet the appropriate minimum wage for the time spent training, employers will need to pay the additional wages. To ensure your apprentice is earning at least the correct National Minimum Wage/National Living Wage for the hours that they are training please visit this website to identify their correct hourly rate.  

Should end-point assessments be paused and providers allowed to self-certify and grade these post-COVID-19? 

End-point assessments can continue to be undertaken. Flexibility to the delivery of end-point assessments have been introduced, including allowing remote assessments where appropriate and rescheduling where needed. The timescales for end-point assessments have also be extended.

Advice for apprentices and apprentice employers

Published on 20 May 2020

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