Guide to the levy


The apprenticeship levy is hot on the government skills agenda, but many employers remain unclear as to the impact it will have on their business. Here, the Tech Partnership explains who the levy affects, how apprenticeships work, and the options open to employers to benefit from these changes. The Tech Partnership is working with employers to help them plan for the levy implementation to ensure that they positively benefit from this change.


In a nutshell

  • The apprenticeship levy aims to fund an increase in the number and quality of apprenticeships
  • It affects businesses with a payroll bill of over £3 million (roughly 2% of businesses)
  • Each qualifying business pays 0.5% of their employee payroll to the levy pot
  • They then receive up to £15,000 against the cost of training apprentices


The detail

The levy – an introduction
Smaller employers – what will I pay?
About apprenticeships
Business impact – how does the levy affect me?
Can I register my business as a training provider?
Can I direct funds in my account to another employer?
Apprenticeship standards – how they’re set


What is the levy?

The purpose of the apprenticeship levy is to fund an increase in the number and quality of apprenticeships. The levy was introduced in May 2017, for businesses with a payroll of £3m+, and set at 0.5% of employers’ pay roll bill.

The government believes this equates to “less than 2% of businesses”. It is estimated that the levy will apply to employers of roughly 110 employees and over – but employers who do not pay the levy will still be able to access government support for apprenticeships. The Government expects the levy to raise £3bn UK wide – of which £2.5bn would come from England. The levy applies to all large organisations, regardless of whether they already employ apprentices or not.

In England, HMRC collects levy payments from employers through Pay as You Earn (PAYE), alongside tax and National Insurance. Levy-paying employers register with the Digital Apprenticeship Service (DAS) to set up their digital account. Through this account, employers are able to redeem their entitlement to pay for apprentice training and will have access to information about appropriate apprenticeship training courses and training providers.

Levy-paying employers in England are able to “get more out than they put in” through a 10% top-up to their digital account. That means for every £1 that enters an employer’s digital account, it will get £1.10 to spend in England on apprenticeship training. Businesses are given 2 years expiry on their monthly levy payments.

The digital account and voucher only applies in England. If you operate in Scotland, Wales and / or Northern Ireland, you’ll also need to be aware that those nations have slightly different policies regarding apprenticeships. Your levy payment will be split between the nations based on the number of your employees who live in each of the four nations.


Will smaller employers pay the levy?

Smaller employers, who don’t have to pay the levy, will remain outside this system for the next couple of years until 2018/19. You’ll be able to access apprenticeships under the current system of government funding via training providers in which 90% of the cost of the apprenticeship training will be covered by the government leaving just 10% of the cost to be met by the employer. Availability of support for apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland still needs to be clarified. Employers with less than 50 staff can benefit from 100% government funding for all apprentices aged 16-18.


What is an apprenticeship?

An apprenticeship is a programme of real work experience, education, training and ongoing assessment which delivers the competencies for a specific occupation. An apprenticeship:

  • creates the competencies set out in an approved apprenticeship standard that is developed by employers
  • is of at least one year’s duration in a real job
  • includes off-the-job training for at least 20% of the time
  • is delivered by a registered provider which is subject to OFSTED inspection
  • ensures minimum standards of English and Maths have been met
  • culminates in an approved ‘end point assessment’.

Apprenticeships offer opportunities to people at all stages in their lives, and indeed at all stages in their careers. It is not just for new recruits to an employer; it can be for somebody who has been working for an employer for several years but has the potential to develop.

Authorities in each of the UK nations will manage their own apprenticeship programmes, including how funding is spent on training. The digital apprenticeship service will support the English apprenticeship system. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will have their own arrangements for supporting employers to access apprenticeships.


What does this mean for my business?

Each levy-paying employer (ie currently only larger employers) receives an allowance of £15,000 per year to offset against the cost of training apprentices.

Levy funds are provided in the form of vouchers, which can be turned into money only by organisations on the government’s Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers (ROATP). Registered training organisations can include private training providers, universities, colleges and employers themselves. As the levy is public funding, the registered training organisation receiving the voucher is subject to OFSTED inspection.

For larger companies, the levy of 0.5% of payroll could constitute several millions of pounds. To ensure that companies really benefit from this change, they will need to devise a strategic plan that:

  • Reflects an understanding of the skills needed in the business over the next 3-5 years
  • Confirms that appropriate Apprenticeship standards are in place to support skills needs
  • Makes provision for appropriate, high quality training
  • Ensures the programme is managed cost-effectively.


Can I register my business as a training provider?

An employer must spend the levy vouchers with registered training providers. This means either giving the vouchers to a private training provider, university or college, or becoming registered itself as a private training provider. If an employer becomes a registered training provider, it can use the vouchers to cover apprenticeship training and assessment. It cannot be used for wages or non- apprenticeship training. It will also be subject to:

  • Significant related administration, compliance and reporting: the employer will be responsible for the design, implementation and compliance of the necessary processes, systems, governance, audit, data collection and government reporting;
  • Regular reviews by OFSTED, in its role as the body that inspects, regulates and rates services providing education and skills for learners of all ages.

If your business is interested in becoming a training provider there is government guidance available


Can I direct funds in my account to another employer?

In the first year of the levy, employers will only be able to use the funds in their digital account to pay for apprenticeship training and assessment for their own employees.

The Tech Partnership and others have made the government aware that many employers may wish to use funds in their account to pay for apprenticeship training of other employers’ apprentices, especially for those in their supply chain. From May 2018, it’s proposed that businesses can transfer 10% of their annual levy pot to a supply chain. 


How are apprenticeship standards set?

Working to ensure coherence in digital apprenticeship standards, a Tech Partnership Employer Steering Group has developed and is maintaining an ‘occupation map’ for new digital apprenticeship standards.

Apprenticeship standards, and their assessment plans, are each designed by a group of at least 10 employers, including at least two companies smaller than 50 staff. Approval to develop a particular standard, and to publish a standard and assessment plan once developed, is currently given by government.

The Institute for Apprenticeships is responsible for setting apprenticeship standards and ensuring quality for England. The Institute will create mechanisms for the approval of apprenticeship standards and assessment plans, maintain quality criteria, and review the effectiveness and quality of standards over time.

New funding bands came into effect from May 2017 for the new digital apprenticeship standards.

Read full details at the Department for Education website