Are there any other useful resources about apprenticeships during the coronavirus outbreak?
On 6 April 2020 the Government published further guidance to clarify the position with apprentices during the Covid-19 outbreak. The full guidance is available from here https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-apprenticeship-programme-response/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-for-apprentices-employers-training-providers-end-point-assessment-organisations-and-external-quality-assurance-pro
The guidance includes details of the measures implemented by the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) in order to provide flexibility in delivering apprenticeships in current circumstances. This includes breaks in learnings, delayed end point assessments and alternative arrangements for end point assessments. These measures apply immediately and until further notice.
There are a number of FAQs within the Government guidance which deal with common queries. The guidance contains some technical provisions and we recommend that you take advice if you are furloughing or making apprentices redundant. If you have any additional queries on the practicalities of implementing the ESFA measures please get in touch.
Further guidance changes to apprenticeships due to coronavirus can be found here.
From 1 July 2020 the furlough scheme has been operating more flexibly.
The key changes from 1 July 2020 were:
- All furloughed employees are subject to the new flexible furlough rules and the new basis for calculating claims
- Furloughed employees can be brought back to work on a part-time basis for any amount of time and can work any work pattern
- Employers can claim for the hours not worked compared the hours the person would normally have worked in that period
- There must be a new written furlough agreement in place to record the agreement with the furloughed employee to return to work part-time
- The new agreement (including a collective agreement) must be made before any period of flexible furlough begins but it may be varied at a later stage if necessary. The agreement must be incorporated into the employee’s contract of employment, either expressly or impliedly
- Employers must keep a record of this agreement until at least 30 June 2025, and they must also keep a record of the hours the furlough employee worked and the hours that they were furloughed
- Employees can be furloughed from 1 July 2020 for any amount of time and more than once
- However, if you re-furloughed an employee after 10 June but before 1 July 2020, they had to be furloughed for an initial period of three consecutive weeks
- Claims for payments under the scheme must not cross calendar months so if you are claiming for the initial three week period of a re-furloughed employee who was furloughed on 12 June for example, you must submit separate claims for the dates in June and July
- Although flexible furlough agreements can last any length of time, you should only submit a claim to HMRC once a week.
The vast majority of disputes settle without ever reaching a final hearing with something in the region of 2-5% of all cases actually ending up in court at a final trial. So whilst it is very unlikely you would need to attend a court hearing, it is always a possibility.
Although an employer is obliged to conduct consultation “with a view to reaching an agreement”, it is not required to actually agree to any counter proposals made by the employee representatives. Merely to consider them in good faith.
No, there is no obligation on employers to offer a flexible furlough arrangement to staff. Operationally, flexible furlough may not be appropriate for your business and equally, returning on a part-time basis may not be suitable for individuals already furloughed for various reasons. Concerns about returning to work part-time or at all should be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Commercial leases generally prevent a tenant from withholding payments of rent. If a tenant stops paying rent there will be a breach of the tenant’s covenant to pay rent which, strictly speaking, will entitle the landlord to forfeit the lease and/or seek to recover the arrears in the courts.
However, on 23 March 2020, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government announced that all commercial tenants in England, Wales and Northern Ireland missing rent payments are to benefit from a government ban on forfeiture of their lease. This change, which will prevent landlords from terminating leases and evicting commercial tenants, is included in the Coronavirus Bill. It will come into force very shortly (once the Coronavirus Bill receives Royal Assent, which is expected to be in a matter of days) and will last until 30 June 2020, with an option for the government to extend this deadline.
It is anticipated that many commercial tenants will take advantage of the reprieve and withhold their rent. Importantly note the rules will apply not only to principal rent but to “any sum a tenant is required to pay”, leaving the burden of supplying services and insuring the premises on landlords.
It is also important to note however that the protection offered by the government is from the threat of forfeiture should tenants withhold rental payments. The liability to pay the rent however remains an interest on unpaid rents will accrue. Furthermore, remedies other than forfeiture may be pursued by the landlord e.g. service of a statutory demand before insolvency or ordinary litigation proceedings for arrears etc.. Tenants then ideally should look to reschedule or suspend rental payment through discussions with their landlord.
The advantage of this being you might be able to negotiate a sensible and manageable repayment program in respect of the suspended rent, free of the threat of litigation.