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Apprenticeship levy ‘still a mystery to many employers’

LESS than three months before it is introduced, the apprenticeship levy remains something of a mystery to many employers, a leading law firm has warned.

Employment experts at Top 100 UK law firm Ward Hadaway, which has offices in Leeds, Newcastle and Manchester, say that while most companies are aware of having to pay the levy, there is a lack of clarity around how the scheme will work in practice.

From April 6, all UK companies and organisations with a pay bill over £3 million a year, will need to spend 0.5% of their total pay bill on the apprenticeship levy – minus a ‘levy allowance’ of £15,000 per year.

The funding will be pooled and then available to be accessed by employers to pay for apprenticeships.

However, whilst businesses are aware that the apprenticeship levy is coming, many have been left in the dark about how precisely it will affect their operations and how they can get the best out of the scheme.

Harmajinder Hayre image

Harmajinder Hayre

Harmajinder Hayre (pictured), Partner in the Employment team at Ward Hadaway’s Leeds office, said: “The apprenticeship levy has the laudable aim of helping to improve skills and job prospects across the UK, but problems associated with the introduction of the scheme means that many employers are still unaware of how it is going to work in practice and what they need to do to prepare for it.

“No scheme of this kind is perfect, but there have been a number of problems with the apprenticeship levy which have made it a difficult thing for companies to get to grips with.

“For example, the guidance issued by the Government on the apprenticeship levy has been on a piece meal basis so it is hard for employers who are busy dealing with many other things to get a full picture on what is going on.

“There are also still important aspects of the levy rules that need to be published and there is uncertainty about how the levy can be accessed.

“In addition, concern has been expressed about whether the IT designed to allow employers to be able to access levy funds and select training providers has been fully delivered and there is concern around finding training providers who have been approved that are able to deliver the level of skills training required in their sector.

“Taken together, these are serious issues which need to be addressed if the Government’s aim of boosting apprenticeships is to be realised – after all, employers are the people who will ultimately decide whether or not this scheme succeeds.”

Ward Hadaway is looking to play its part in helping companies come to terms with the practicalities of the apprenticeship levy at a special workshop in February.

The firm is teaming up with leading UK learning provider QA to stage an event which will guide employers through the practical and legal steps required to ensure they are apprenticeship levy-ready.

Ben Pike, Managing Director at QA, said: “We have been working closely with some of the UK’s largest employers to implement strategies that make the most of the opportunities that the apprenticeship levy brings for business.  We are looking forward to sharing with delegates at the workshop the lessons we have learnt during this process.

“By taking a very practical approach in conjunction with Ward Hadaway, we hope to be able to demystify the apprenticeship levy and help organisations of all kinds to understand the scheme and get the most out of it to develop skills and talent.”

The workshop takes place at the Leeds office of Ward Hadaway at 5 Wellington Place from 9am to 12.30pm on Wednesday 1 February.

Further information on the event can be found by clicking here.