The draft Apprenticeships (Alternative English Completion Conditions and Miscellaneous Provisions) (Amendment) (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020 would enable apprentices who have been made redundant and who have completed at least 75% of their training to complete their apprenticeship under alternative arrangements.

Due to the pandemic, the Department for Education (DfE) has said that it “expected to see an increase” in the number of apprentices being made redundant and that there may be “fewer opportunities available” for apprentices to find new employers to continue their apprenticeship with.

Currently, the Education and Skills Funding Agency continues to fund apprentices who are made redundant, provided they complete their apprenticeship within certain time limits. The regulations would remove those time limits.

The House of Lords is due to debate a motion to approve the regulations on 12 October 2020.

What does the instrument do?

The instrument was laid before Parliament on 10 September 2020, under the powers of the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009. The instrument applies to England only.

The regulations’ explanatory memorandum sets out their purpose. The instrument would make amendments to two earlier regulations:

  • The Apprenticeships (Alternative English Completion Conditions) Regulations 2012 (SI 2012/1199): The 2012 regulations allow an apprentice who is made redundant to complete their apprenticeship with an alternative provider within six months. The current instrument would amend the 2012 regulations to remove the six month deadline, provided the apprentice had completed at least 75% of their course.
  • The Apprenticeships (Miscellaneous Provisions) Regulations 2017 (SI 2017/1310): The 2017 regulations prescribe circumstances in which an apprentice who is made redundant may complete their apprenticeship under alternative arrangements, provided they have less than six months of their “practical period” still to run. The practical period is when an apprentice is “expected to work and receive training under their apprenticeship agreement”. The current regulations would amend the 2017 regulations so that an apprentice who had been made redundant and had completed 75% of their course could complete their apprenticeship under alternative arrangements irrespective of whether they had less than six months of their practical period still to run.

The explanatory memorandum states that the DfE consulted with the Institute for Apprentices and Technical Education in deciding the policy of only applying the regulations to apprentices who have completed 75% of their course. The DfE said that, as on-the-job training was such an essential element of an apprenticeship, it would “not be generally practicable” for an apprentice to obtain occupational competence if they had more than a quarter of their apprenticeship to complete at the time of redundancy.

The instrument has been laid under the ‘draft affirmative’ procedure, meaning it must be approved by both Houses before it can enter into force. If approved, it would come into force on the day after it is made (ie signed) by the relevant Government minister.

What parliamentary scrutiny has the instrument received?

The regulations have been considered by both the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments and the House of Lords Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, but neither drew them to the special attention of the House.

However, the House of Lords Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee asked the DfE what support was available for apprentices who had not completed 75% of their course. The DfE said it had launched a support service and a vacancy sharing service for apprentices who had lost their job. For those unable to secure new employment, the DfE said that the Department for Work and Pensions had introduced the Kickstart programme:

Kickstart will offer a subsidised six-month work placement for 16 to 24 year olds who otherwise might not have got into work or be ready for an apprenticeship. We have also made three times more funding available to providers in 2020–21 to support 30,000 new traineeship places, and introduced payments of £1,000 per trainee for employers who offer new or additional work placements (up to 10 trainees).

A House of Commons Delegated Legislation Committee held a short debate on the instrument on 30 September 2020 and voted to agree it. The House of Commons formally approved it on 5 October 2020.

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