Report by think tank alleges millions are being spent on ‘fake’ apprenticeships

A report for the EDSK think tank alleges that employers are abusing their apprenticeship levy funds and that the funding pot generated by the levy is about to run out.

The apprenticeship levy was introduced in 2017 and applies to all employers with an annual wage bill of over £3 million. Employers have to contribute 0.5% of their payroll towards the levy. These employers pay their levy contributions into a digital account held by HMRC and can then ‘spend’ their contributions on apprenticeships delivered by registered training providers. Other employers who do not pay the levy can access the funds that the levy generates through arranging apprenticeships with registered providers. In its first full year of operation, the levy raised £2.7 billion and this is expected to rise to £3.4 billion by 2023-24.

The report indicates that there has been a shift away from lower levels of training aimed at young people to higher training directed at experienced staff. The data appears to back this up as the proportion of young people starting apprenticeships has fallen since the levy was introduced.

It criticises the government for failing to establish a rigorous definition of what constitutes an ‘apprenticeship’ which, it believes, has led to misuse. It identifies three categories of, what it describes as, ‘fake apprenticeships’ which have been allocated over £1.2 billion of levy funding and account for 50% of all apprenticeships started since 2017. These are:

  • Low-skill generic roles that don’t meet any established definition of an apprenticeship
  • Management training and professional development courses – which effectively, rebadge existing training and professional development courses
  • Bachelor’s degrees and Master’s level programmes.

According to a report by the Guardian newspaper, a government spokesman disputes these findings.

Number of employment claims continues to rise

The most recent statistics published by the Ministry of Justice indicate that the numbers of employment claims continues to rise. For the period 1 July to 30 September 2019, 12,000 single claims were received - an increase of 38% on the same quarter in 2018 and 2,300 more than last quarter’s figure of 9,700. The most common complaints were unauthorised deductions from wages, unfair dismissal and equal pay claims.

Information Commissioner consults on subject access guidance

The UK Information Commissioner’s office has issued a consultation on new draft guidance on dealing with subject access requests.

The draft guidance runs to 77 pages and anyone wishing to comment has until 5pm on Wednesday 12 February 2020 to do so.

Government signals intention to introduce new immigration system that will apply to EU and non EU citizens wishing to live and work in the UK

During the recent Queen’s Speech, the government announced plans to introduce legislation to bring an end to the free movement of people. Instead, it will introduce a new points based immigration system that will come into effect in 2021. EU citizens that do not already have settled status or pre-settled status will be subject to the same immigration controls as non-EU citizens coming to the UK.

Government extends shortage occupation list

The government recently published a statement of changes to the shortage occupation list following recommendations made by the Migration Advisory Committee.

These significantly extend the UK wide shortage occupation list and make it easier for employers to hire workers from outside the EEA. The changes, which are now in place, mean that all roles with certain standard occupational classification codes are now deemed shortage occupations. This will particularly help the health and social care, engineering and digital technology sectors.

HMRC update employment status tool and manual

HMRC has released an updated Check Employment Status for Tax tool (CEST) service. The tool can be used to find out whether HMRC are likely to class an individual as employed or self-employed for tax purposes. It works by asking a series of questions about the relationship between the employer and the worker.