Managing Coronavirus in 2021
Whilst COVID-19 brings lots of uncertainty, we want to reassure you that our colleagues and our service levels, are both safe and prepared as we try to respond to the spread of the virus.
Below you can find the steps we’re taking to maintain a safe and reliable service for you on an ongoing basis. If you are an apprentice or an apprentice’s line manager with us you will have already received a more detailed statement. If you require this email to be resent, please contact your tutor.
- Since March 2020 all of our 1:1 tutor sessions have been remotely delivered.
- From March 2020, we will no longer be delivering our in-centre training sessions at our physical premises. (We will re-start our centre training after the pandemic)
- We continue to deliver apprentice exams and synoptic projects in line with government and examining body advice.
- If you are required to visit our premises or if we have to visit your premises, we will take additional safety and cleaning measures.
- We are also working with other training providers and colleges to work with the government to ensure that apprentices, and the businesses that employ them, are fully supported.
These are not decisions we’ve taken lightly, particularly as we pride ourselves on building relationships with face-to-face contact in our delivery, however, we understand the importance of keeping everyone safe.
Thank you for continuing to work with us during these difficult circumstances.
How to apply for an incentive payment for hiring a new apprentice
You can claim up to £2,000 as an incentive payment if you hire an apprentice that starts with you between 1 August 2020 and 31 March 2021. You’ll have until 30 April 2021 to make the claim.
The following webinar hosted by the ESFA in September 2020 will walk you through how to claim the employer incentive grants that form part of a Plan for Jobs, NowSkills cannot make this claim on your behalf. You can also read more about the incentive here
Update 3rd March 2021
The chancellor Rishi Sunak revealed his new incentive plans in his 2021 budget announcement. Beginning on the 1st April 2021 until the 30th September 2021, employers can receive a £3,000 incentive for hiring an apprentice. This is regardless of the apprentice’s age. This is in addition to the £1,000 payment for hiring apprentices between 16-18. The chancellor stated that this apprenticeship scheme would support individuals from all ages to reskill and ‘level up’ the country’s economy. Employers could receive £4,000.
The Government is set to introduce a £7 million fund from July 2021 to help employers in England set up and expand portable apprenticeships. This will help support apprentices working on multiple projects with different employers.
A new Help to Grow scheme will be introduced to offer a digital and management boost to up to 130,000 companies across the UK.
The Government will offer a new UK-wide management programme to upskill 30,000 SMEs in the UK over three years. This programme will be 90% subsidised by the government and will equip SMEs with the skills to grow their businesses.
Update 6th January 2021
The Prime Minister announced another lockdown in England on 5th January 2021. NowSkills is carrying on with its effective and safe apprenticeship delivery measures, implemented during previous lockdowns and throughout the pandemic.
Our safe-delivery measures continue to deliver excellent quality for apprentices and employers and this quality is reflected in our success rates; a success that has been achieved by working with our employer partners who have continued to support and progress their apprentices.
We continue to use Microsoft Teams and Adobe Connect to deliver virtual 1:1 mentoring and group virtual classroom training. We’re delighted with the feedback as our apprentices continue to complete exams, portfolios and pass their End Point Assessments during the pandemic.
If you require help with the additional funding for apprentices please contact us.
Update 14th July 2020
The UK government has today released further guidance on how the new incentive payments will work. The full guidance can be read here
Here are some main points that answer questions our employer partners have been asking us:
- Qualifying apprentices must be a new employee to the business, have a contract of employment start date between 1 August 2020 and 31 January 2021 (inclusive) and must not have been employed by the employer within the six months prior to the contract start date.
- Claims can start to be made by employers from 1 September 2020. Those claims must be made through the apprenticeship service.
- The payment will be made directly to employers in two equal instalments, where the apprentice is still in learning at day 90 and day 365.
Update 8th July 2020
Today the Chancellor has announced a new Plan for Jobs with strategic support for the UK economy. With regards to how the Plan for Jobs affects apprenticeships, there appear to be two main policy decisions that will affect our apprentice and employer partners and we have interpreted the information as follows:
- For apprentices already on a digital apprenticeship programme with us and who have been furloughed, policy decision 2.3 The Job Retention Bonus means employers will receive a one-off payment of £1,000 for every furloughed employee who returns to work and who is employed through to the end of January 2021.
The requirement is that the employed apprentice must have earned above £520 per month on average between the end of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the end of January 2021.
2. For employers hiring new apprentices between 1st August 2020 and 31st January 2021, there will be a new incentive. Policy decision 2.14 Payments for employers who hire new apprentices.
- Employers hiring new apprentices aged under 25 receive a £2,000 payment
- Employers hiring new apprentices over 25 receive a £1500 payment
Employers will continue to receive the £1,000 Additional Payment for new apprentices where they qualify on top of the new incentives.
It is anticipated the information will change and we will update this webpage. Please contact your tutor or our employer advisers for more and the latest details.
Update 1st June 2020
We have launched a free guide for our employer partners demonstrating how we have continued to deliver our apprenticeships during lockdown and the socially distanced after coronavirus period.
The guide covers: funding, furloughing of apprentices, enrolling new apprentices, safe methods for interviewing, classroom teaching and examinations using our virtual learning tools and lots more.
Update 14th April
Our operations team are continuing to progress our digital apprentices using our suite of online learning tools. These include furloughed apprentices who can continue their training during furlough.
There has been further clarification released by the government on furloughing of apprentices and if you have questions about the coronavirus job retention scheme, please contact us and we will be happy to help.
Update 26th March
The government has confirmed that apprentices can continue to progress in their apprenticeship if they have been furloughed under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. Read more.
Update 24th March
If you’re an apprentice and your work situation has changed, perhaps your role has been made redundant or you have been “furloughed” then you might have questions about your apprenticeship. As your apprenticeship provider, we have a duty of care to you and you can reach out to your tutor for guidance.
On the 23rd March 2020 the Prime Minister announced a lockdown in the United Kingdom, this has changed the way we live, temporarily.
At the moment we don’t know exactly how long the Coronovirus situation will last or when there will be a vaccine available. We know this can be a very stressful time and different people are affected in different ways.
We’re here for you if you feel stressed and you can contact our office or your tutors for support.
Questions we are being asked
My employer has asked me to work from home, can I continue my apprenticeship?
Yes. Your tutor will be in touch with you to explain how we are delivering our virtual training classroom sessions and your 1:1 sessions so that you can continue to progress in your apprenticeship.
I’ve lost my job because of Coronavirus, what happens to my apprenticeship?
Don’t worry, at the moment you’re not the only one. An apprenticeship is an agreement between an apprentice, a training provider and an employer, so we will work to find a new employer for you. However, the reality is that very few employers are recruiting new people at the moment. One major obstacle is that social distancing means employers can’t arrange interviews.
The good news is that you can carry on learning without a job for a limited period of time. Our training team is busy delivering 1:1 sessions and classroom sessions online as long as the Coronavirus situation continues. You have likely already been invited to or have attended one of these online sessions.
From Gov.uk: If you were made redundant or stopped working for your employer after 28 February 2020 your employer can agree to re-employ you and place you on furlough. They’ll still be able to claim a grant to cover 80% of your regular wages……if you were on your employer’s PAYE payroll on 28 February 2020. Read more
From Gov.uk: If you currently have more than one employer: You can be put on furlough by one employer and continue to work for another. If you’re put on furlough by more than one employer, you’ll receive separate payments from each employer. The 80% of your regular wage up to a £2,500 monthly cap applies to each job. Read more
If I can’t find a new employer will my apprenticeship work be wasted?
We will eventually find you an employer or you might find an employer yourself. However, in this current Coronavirus situation, it might take longer.
I have been furloughed, I am worried I can’t continue my apprenticeship
On 26th March the government confirmed that furloughed apprentices can continue to progress in their apprenticeship. The rules say:
“Once you are on furlough you will not be able to work for your employer, but you can undertake training or volunteer subject to public health guidance”
NowSkills believes that if you have been furloughed, it presents an opportunity to study and prepare yourself for your examinations, attend our online classrooms events and continue your 1:1 mentoring sessions. If you’re required to stay at home all day, then improving your prospects for when this is all over by concentrating on your studies is a positive use of time for you and for your employer when you return to work.
If you’ve been furloughed or you’re an employer considering furloughing an apprentice, then please talk to us and we can consider together what the best course of action might be.
Other COVID-19 Coronovirus links and information
Universal Credit – Chancellor has announced that Universal Credit will be increased by £1,000 per year for the next 12 months.
Other benefits may be available – a simple online check can be undertaken to determine what benefits you may be entitled to:
Most mortgage lenders have confirmed that anyone who is suffering financial hardship as a result of the Coronavirus may request up to a 3 – month payment holiday from their mortgage. Please speak to your individual mortgage lender who will offer you further advice on this.
Rent support may be available via housing benefit. In addition, please be aware that since 18th March 2020, landlords can no longer apply to evict tenants for the next 3 months for rent arrears.
Although Water is supplied by a regional selection of water companies, who have not yet all confirmed what help is available, their Regulator, Ofwat, have assured people that they are expecting firms will offer payment holidays, and moreover, some water providers are running a scheme for those who have built up large debts, where the utility provider will contribute £1 for every £1 you pay towards the arrears. Please speak to your water provider for more details.
Gas and Electricity
The big six energy suppliers have said that they are likely to push back bill dates for customers who have been affected by the Coronavirus or remove debt charges for late payments.
Each case will be reviewed on an individual basis, although the support particularly applies to vulnerable customers.
If you have a prepayment meter, most utility suppliers are advising customers to top up on the phone using its automated service or online where this is possible.
Customers with a traditional prepayment meter can potentially access emergency credit on their meter, which may last during an isolation period.
If you run out of emergency credit before your isolation period ends, make sure you contact your energy supplier to discuss your options.
The leading mobile phone networks (EE, O2, THREE and Vodaphone) have all confirmed that for those suffering financial hardship as a result of Coronavirus, there are options available to customers to support with payment plans.
In addition, most providers have also “zero rated” any NHS web page, meaning that it will not come from your data allowance if you need to access NHS information. In addition, O2, whether they are pay as you go, or a monthly customer can call NHS 111 free of charge from their mobile.
Similar to mobile providers most internet providers have zero rated NHS websites, and also have payments options for anyone who is facing financial difficulty as a result of Coronavirus.
Most major gyms, leisure centres, clubs etc. who are now closed are approaching their customers to confirm suspension of subscriptions. You may wish to approach them directly in respect of future payments if you face financial hardship.