COVID-19 Advice for Employers and their Apprentices!
Stockton Riverside College remains committed to continuing to provide an outstanding service to our employers and apprentices throughout COVID-19. Our Business Development team are here to support you and offer advice and guidance during the pandemic and thereafter.
As per government guidance, the Education Training Collective (Etc.) made the decision to cease all face-to-face learning across all of our sites. Our staff will continue to work remotely and ensure business continuity for core and key business functions, including apprenticeships.
While face-to-face learning is ceased, our assessors are delivering sessions through the online platform, Smart Assessor. Our Business Development team and assessors will work with you and your apprentice to ensure the new ways of working and the transition from face-to-face delivery to remote, are both accessible and easy. This includes:
- If your business is still open, all employer visits to complete reviews will take place using digital means
- If your apprenticeship is nearing its end, you will normally be asked to do an end-point assessment (EPA) to test your skills and knowledge. Where possible this should continue as planned. Where this is not possible, the employer and college will consider extending the apprenticeship and rescheduling the EPA. There are also options of remote assessment or simulation instead of face-to-face assessment in some cases. Please discuss the options with us and we will advise.
If you are an employer and have any questions or require any advice, please call your dedicated Business Development Coordinator or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Further information is also available on the government website.
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme – Furloughing your Employees
Apprentices are employees and as a result you will need follow UK employment law and guidelines. Please ensure trading circumstances are clearly communicated to all staff via emails or group messaging services.
If you choose to furlough your apprentice(s), they should not undertake any work for your business. Apprentices will continue with their training with the College and should be paid at least the Apprenticeship Minimum Wage, National Living Wage or National Minimum Wage (AMW/NLW/NMW) as appropriate for all the time they spend training. This means you must cover any shortfall between the amount you can claim for their wages through the furlough scheme and their appropriate minimum wage.
You are able to furlough your apprentice(s) and claim 80% of their wages, or an average if hours are variable, if you have been forced to close by government guidance or lack of trade. Please note, you must keep your apprentice(s) employed through the PAYE (pay as you earn) tax system to do this.
What is a Break in Learning?
A break in learning is usually applied when there is a personal circumstance for the apprentice that means they will be having an extended period of absence from both their work and the apprenticeship. This is usually lead by the learner. However, due to the impact from COVID-19, the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) has relaxed the rules to allow any apprentice in one of the following situations to be eligible to take a break in learning:
- Furloughed by their workplace
- Ready to enter gateway to commence their end point assessment
- Redeployed into a role that is unrelated to their apprenticeship
When an apprentice takes a break in learning their apprenticeship programme pauses. This means that the time that the apprentice has to complete the apprenticeship is extended. Employers will be expected to keep their apprentice in employment until their programme is completed. If the apprentice is employed on a fixed term contract the expectation is that this is extended.
We believe that breaks in learning (BiL) should only be used as a last resort. If you would like to proceed with a BIL please ensure that you communicate this with the College Assessor and Business Development Coordinator, so that we can discuss what is the best route forward (including whether a BiL can be avoided via training through remote platforms), and then correct procedures can be followed.
Click here to view the government website and find out more information about breaks in learning.
If you fund the cost of your apprentice through a levy, then you do not need to make any changes to your digital account service. If your apprentice enters into a break in learning, then payments will pause automatically.
Government COVID-19 Support for Businesses
The Tees Valley Combined Authority have shared important information for business owners in the region. Please see below for more details:
On Monday 23rd March, the Government has ordered all non-essential businesses, premises and public places to close. If you are continuing to operate, ensure a distance of two metres between customers and shop assistants; let people enter the shop only in small groups to ensure that spaces are not crowded; and queue control is required outside of shops and other essential premises that remain open.
The Government has announced it is bringing forward legislation to allow small and medium-sized businesses and employers to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay paid for sickness absence due to Coronavirus. It will increase the business rates retail discount in England to 100% for all businesses, regardless of rateable value in the leisure and hospitality sectors. It will provide a one-off grant of £10,000 to support small businesses that already pay little or no business rates because of small business rate relief. Businesses in the retail, leisure and hospitality sector, with a rateable value of £15,000 to £51,000, will have access to grants of up to £25,000 and will not pay business rates for the next year.
- If you are an eligible business in Darlington, Darlington Borough Council will contact you directly or you can visit their website here.
- If you are an eligible business in Hartlepool, please direct all enquiries to 01429 867677 or email@example.com.
- If you are an eligible business in Middlesbrough and want to apply for the Government grants of £10,000 or £25,000, please visit Middlesbrough council’s website here and complete the form.
- If you are a business in Redcar and Cleveland who wants to discuss grants or rate relief, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- If you are an eligible business in Stockton-on-Tees, please direct all enquiries to 01642 528384 or email@example.com.
A new temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme has launched to support businesses to access bank lending and overdrafts. This is being extended to small and medium-sized businesses, providing loans of up to £5million, with no interest due for the first six months, up from £1.2million. This is being facilitated by the British Business Bank.
Additional information from the Tees Valley Combined Authority can be found here.
Additional Online Information
- The Government has important information on keeping yourself and your staff safe: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/full-guidance-on-staying-at-home-and-away-from-others
- ACAS has practical information on working from home, self-isolation and social distancing during COVID-19: https://www.acas.org.uk/coronavirus
- The FSB has valuable information for the self-employed and small businesses during COVID-19: https://www.fsb.org.uk/campaign/covid19.html
Get In Touch
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact our Business Development team, who are here to support you and offer advice and guidance during the pandemic and thereafter.