Can apprentices be furloughed?
Note: The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme closed on 31 October 2020 and has been replaced by the Job Support Scheme from 1 November 2020. The last date on which employers can submit or amend claims for employees furloughed under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is 30 November 2020.
Yes. HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) guidance on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme confirms that apprentices can be furloughed and the employer can make a claim for their wages under the scheme. The guidance states that the apprentice can continue to train while furloughed. The employer must pay the apprentice at least the relevant national minimum wage rate for the time they spend on training while furloughed. This may mean that the employer must top up the amount that it claims from HMRC under the scheme.
Government guidance on apprenticeships and coronavirus states that, where apprentices are furloughed, the apprentice, employer and training provider should consider whether a break in learning would be appropriate. Employers and training providers must report any formal breaks in learning that are to last more than four weeks to the Education and Skills Funding Agency. Under the normal funding rules, a break in learning should be initiated by the apprentice. However, employers and training providers are now temporarily able to initiate a break in learning.
Where a break in learning is reported, the payment of funding to the training provider will be suspended until the apprentice resumes their apprenticeship. During the break, employers will be able to claim back the lower of 80% of the apprentice's monthly earnings or £2,500 per month from HMRC.
The scheme is now closed to new entrants, except where the employee is returning from statutory family leave or is a military reservist returning from active service.