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Employer responsibilities

Apprenticeships work as a tripartite arrangement: The Open University (OU), the employer and the apprentice. Positive collaboration between these three parties allows the apprentice to gain the best value from their apprenticeship and your organisation to gain optimal benefits from your apprentice’s work.

The activities below are often carried out by different roles in an organisation. We refer to the named contact person within an organisation-wide HR function as the “Apprenticeship Lead” and the person responsible for the day-to-day management of the apprentice as the “Line Manager”. These roles might be titled slightly differently, or the responsibility split between the roles might be different in your organisation but the responsibilities for all employers are the same.

To access funds or pay for training you need to register for an apprenticeship service account. To do this you will need:

  • An email address
  • Government gateway login for your organisation
  • Authority to add PAYE schemes to the account
  • Authority to accept the employer agreement on behalf of your organisation.

For further information visit the relevant government website:

The OU will undertake a due diligence check to establish whether your organisation can provide the appropriate support to ensure apprentices will be able to complete their apprenticeship. The support you are expected to provide includes:

  • identifying a line manager
  • identifying a mentor
  • providing a healthy and safe learning environment
  • ensuring the apprentice has planned time for their off-the-job training
  • ensuring the apprentice undertakes some form of active learning i.e. off-the-job training, functional skills development, in every calendar month
  • allowing line managers dedicated time to support the apprentice and attend tripartite meetings.

The regulations about funding apprenticeships are different in England and Wales.

Read the funding information for further details.

Further information on the Apprenticeship Levy in England can be found on the Education and Skills Funding Agency website, including information for non-levy payers on co-investment.

The employer has the primary responsibility for the health and safety of the apprentice. You must ensure the workplace is safe, in line with all industry specific and general workplace regulations and any significant risks are managed. Some programmes such as those in healthcare and social work have additional requirements set by professional bodies and require employers to demonstrate that all requirements are met before being able to accept any apprentices. You can find more details about requirements for practice learning in

If your current or future apprentices have told you they have a disability, discuss with them how you can support them in their learning. As an employer you can benefit from the Access to Work scheme. Find out more about this scheme and who is eligible for it in the Access to Work factsheet for employers

Computer chips

It is mandatory for apprentices to have someone in the workplace who is responsible for their learning and facilitates their development. In most organisations this task is owned by the apprentice’s line manager. If a line manager or mentor is new to coaching apprentices we recommend our free mentoring training “Mentoring Matters”.

Further roles for specific programmes

Some apprenticeship programmes such as the those in healthcare and social work require additional mandatory roles in the workplace to support the apprentice’s learning. You can find more details in:

You might consider having further roles in your organisation to support your apprentices. Though not mandatory roles, mentors, sponsors or a buddying system can go a long way in supporting apprentices in their learning.

The Apprenticeship Lead is expected to ensure the Written Agreement is signed by an authorised signatory of the employer. The Written Agreement is a legally binding contract between the employer and the training provider and is a mandatory requirement of apprenticeship funding. The Written Agreement covers the terms and conditions of the contract and covers all apprenticeship programmes delivered by the OU. You will also be sent a Payment Schedule with a specific breakdown of the programme costs and payment details.

  • Identify the gaps in your workforce. Identifying the skills and capacity gaps in your workforce will enable you to choose appropriate apprenticeship programmes.
    Your organisation must have a genuine job for the apprentice. This means that the apprentice must have an employment contract with you with you for at least the length of the apprenticeship (including the end-point assessment).
  • Produce a customised job description. The job description should reflect the role the apprentice will perform once fully trained and must align with the standard underpinning apprenticeship programme. Note that the role should be sufficiently wide ranging to include opportunities to develop and evidence the knowledge, skills and behaviours listed in the apprenticeship standard.
    Also, consider:
    • Pre-requisites for entry. Be realistic about what a candidate needs in order to learn how to do the job you’ve created. In some cases they may not need any prior experience. Bear in mind that training is an essential part of the post and many of the skills will be developed during the apprenticeship.
      Ensure the eligibility requirements for ESFA funding if the apprenticeship is in England as well as specific programme requirements are indicated clearly.
    • Language. Ask yourself whether someone new to the world of work will understand the terminology included in your job description.
    • Description. Don't assume that someone will already know what your department does. Try to explain it clearly and how the role fits into it.
  • Advertise the job vacancy. The Open University can support you with the recruitment process. We will also advertise the vacancy on RecruitAnApprentice.
  • Ensure the candidate meets the eligibility criteria and programme-specific entry requirements. If you are based in England and want to fund your apprentices through the Levy scheme, you must include the eligibility criteria for apprenticeship funding in the person specification alongside any programme-specific entry requirements (you can find these on each apprenticeship programme page). This applies to both your existing employee and new employees recruited specifically into an apprentice role.
    As part of the initial assessment, the OU will check whether the individuals you are putting forward for the training meet all the requirements. The OU will also check what previous knowledge the individuals have using a skills scan and whether the chosen apprenticeship is at the right level.

It is important for the Line Manager to know what knowledge, skills and behaviour their apprentice(s) will learn and develop, since you will play a vital part in facilitating their learning. You will be responsible for ensuring the apprentice(s) have opportunities to apply their learning in the workplace. You will also give actionable feedback to your apprentice(s) so they can achieve the standard defined for the role. Your feedback will help the apprentice to prepare gradually for their end-point assessment, which they need to pass to complete their apprenticeship in England.

You will be invited to attend one of the briefing webinars offered by the OU. At these webinars you will learn about the responsibilities of Line Managers and how you can support your apprentice(s). They are also a great opportunity to encounter other Line Managers and to create a first contact with the OU.

Apprentices are asked to go through a formal application and induction process. They will need your support as you will have to provide them with a copy of the apprentice contract of employment or service during this stage and help them understand the level of commitment required for the apprenticeship.

You will discuss aspects such as

  • their working pattern
  • how they will make use of their off-the-job training time
  • how they will access the opportunities to develop their skills
  • the support they can expect from your organisation
  • relevant prior learning.

If you are new to line managing apprentices, you might have some questions of your own at this stage and need to find out the answers from the Apprenticeship Lead within your organisation, for example.
Apprentices will need your support to complete the paperwork within a limited time window.
If the apprentice is a new recruit, you will provide them with an induction into your company. Both new recruits and existing employees will also need an induction into their new role. In addition, you and the apprentice must attend a short online induction session organised by the OU, too.
For further guidance, see ‘The induction to the apprenticeship’ by the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education.

A skills scan is part of the initial assessment carried out by the OU. It is a systematic review of an apprentice's knowledge, skills and behaviours against the standard. It has to be completed jointly by the apprentice and the Line Manager. The skills scan will provide a picture of the apprentice’s prior learning to establish a baseline against the apprenticeship standard and how much new learning is needed. You should consider how the apprentice will be able to develop the knowledge, skills and behaviours in your organisation over the time of the apprenticeship. If you are concerned about any element please talk to your Employer Lead who may be able to help, for example by providing a short-term secondment to another team.

The Training Plan part one (previously known as the Commitment Statement) outlines the roles played by the employer, the OU and the apprentice in the apprenticeship. This document is signed by the Line Manager, the OU and the apprentice. You can view a sample in the Line Managers Guide on the government’s website.

The apprenticeship agreement details the skills, trade or occupation the apprentice is being trained for, the name and version of the apprenticeship standard they are working towards, the start and end dates for the apprenticeship and the planned hours required.
The Apprenticeship agreement template published on GOV.UK gives you an idea of what information it contains. The apprenticeship agreement will be sent to each apprentice during the application process and needs to be signed by the employer and the apprentice as part of the formal application process before the start of the programme. This agreement is normally signed by the Line Manager on behalf of the employer but you will have to check with your organisation whether you have the authority to sign it.

In England, before completing their programme, apprentices will have to pass an end-point assessment (EPA). The EPA may or may not be integrated into the qualification they are studying. To check whether the programme you are interested in has an integrated EPA or not, go to Programmes in England, choose the apprenticeship you are interested in and check in the “Programme summary” box.
If the EPA is not integrated into the qualification, then it is the employer’s responsibility to identify an end-point assessment organisation (EPAO) and agree on a price for the assessment.
The Open University can help you find an EPAO and will contract with them on your behalf.
You will be contacted in the year the EPA is to be completed to discuss options. The cost of the EPA is included in the apprenticeship price, so no additional payments are required. The UK Government website has more information to find out more about finding an EPAO.

As an employer you are expected to support your apprentices’ learning by:

  • Abiding by employment legislation and constantly providing a work environment that complies with health and safety regulations.
  • Having a clear system for apprentice supervision, support and mentoring as well as providing support and relevant training to their line managers. Beyond being competent in the apprentice’s work field, line managers will need to be able to conduct 1:1 conversations and deal with sensitive, confidential and emotive issues, how to coach apprentices and how to manage performance, grievance and discipline procedures.
  • Having apprentice specific policies in place that provide clarity about the status of apprentices in your organisation, how they are managed and what their responsibilities are. This will help both apprentices and line managers.
  • Allocating sufficient paid time for off-the-job training to meet the planned hours of the programme. In addition, if an apprentice also has to achieve their level 2 functional skills qualifications in English and/or maths, additional time has to be granted for developing these skills and preparing for the tests.
  • Informing the OU as soon as possible of any changes or concerns relating to an individual’s apprenticeship or if you notice that an apprentice is struggling.
  • Promoting a positive culture about apprenticeships and around apprentices.

Both employers and training providers have a statutory duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of individuals.

The OU’s Safeguarding Policy can be found here.

During the apprenticeship you must alert the OU to any concerns regarding your apprentices to allow us to explore the possible causes of the apprentice’s behaviour. The OU has a dedicated Prevent Co-ordinator and a Safeguarding referral team.

An apprentice's circumstances may change and you will need to take the appropriate actions and inform the OU as soon as possible because changes must be approved and recorded for funding purposes. Examples of changes in circumstances are:

  • Module failure: you, as the employer will need to decide whether to support the extra costs (and time) for an apprentice to re-take a failed module.
  • Breaks in learning: where the apprentice requires a temporary break in their apprenticeship due to illness, parental leave, or other personal reasons.
  • Withdrawing from the programme: where the apprentice is no longer employed by you or chooses to withdraw from the programme prior to completion.
  • Redundancy: where the apprentice is made redundant.

Full details and the list of actions to be taken can be found on the UK Government website.

Whether you are a new line manager or are experienced in managing others, there are some apprenticeship-specific aspects that you should be aware of. Especially for employers in England, many of these aspects are linked to your organisation receiving funding for the apprentice.
Some of these aspects are:

  • Planned time for off-the-job training
  • Apprentices need to work at least 30 hours per week and spend at least 50% of their working time in England over the duration of the apprenticeship.
  • Apprentices need to meet all eligibility criteria for funding throughout their apprenticeship programme. Should any circumstance change during the programme resulting in an apprentice no longer meeting the criteria, you should notify the OU without delay.

As a line manager of an apprentice you are expected to:

  • Be familiar with the apprenticeship standard and assessment, including the end-point assessment for apprenticeships in England.
  • Review regularly how the apprenticeship will work day-to-day such as what the working pattern will be, who the apprentice will work with, whether any interventions put in place to support the apprentice work as anticipated, etc. to meet the apprentice’s learning needs and the business’ operational needs.
  • Contribute and agree the apprentice’s Training Plan part two: individual learning plan and the key milestones within it.
  • Create opportunities and set work tasks that are relevant to the knowledge, skills and behaviours the apprentice is expected to demonstrate.
  • Ensure that the objectives on which the apprentice will be appraised are in line with their apprenticeship standards. This will give you evidence on which to base your evaluation at the gateway stage.
  • Attend quarterly tripartite review meetings with the apprentice and the OU’s Practice Tutor, you will be required to provide feedback on the apprentice and sign the formal documentation. These meetings could also serve as a starting point for your regular line management meetings to check on progress on the objectives you have set for your apprentice.
  • Inform the OU if you notice that your apprentice is struggling. Apprentices have access to the student support team alongside their tutor support.
  • Be aware of your apprentices’ welfare and wellbeing. You can find out more in the guidance provided by the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education.

It is not uncommon that an apprentice changes their line manager. If you are the “new” line manager before embarking on the task list above you should:

  • Find out whether the previous line manager has left any notes or information about the apprentice, the apprenticeship or a list of urgent or important upcoming activities or tasks for you.
  • Familiarise yourself with the relevant apprenticeship standard and assessment and read the Training Plan part one (previously known as commitment statement) signed by the apprentice and previous line manager.
  • Attend one of the line manager webinars that the OU offers on a regular basis.
  • Schedule a meeting with the apprentice as soon as possible to find out
    1. what their motivation for the apprenticeship is,
    2. how they are progressing with their apprenticeship,
    3. what the established practices are for:
      • meetings including tripartite quarterly reviews,
      • how off-the-job training time can be taken and,
      • where needed, time for studying English and maths (functional skills),
      • working with training plans (commitment to learning and individual learning plans) and whether the practices work well going forward or need reviewing to ensure the apprentice is successful.
  • Ensure your Apprenticeship Lead has notified the OU of the change of line manager and ask your apprentice when the next tripartite progress review meeting is scheduled to ensure you don’t miss it.
  • Ensure your apprentice has notified their practice tutor of the change.

As an apprentice’s Line Manager you are their first point of contact in the workplace. Your support will be particularly important in the first days when the apprentice is settling in into their new role. You will be expected to:

  • Explain the job role and answer any questions the apprentice might have.
  • Agree a work pattern that allows the apprentice paid off-the-job training time. This may include regular day release, block release and special training days/workshops.
  • If the apprentice needs additional time off to prepare for the achievement of level 2 functional skills (English and/or maths), agree a work pattern that allows this.
  • Help your apprentice create their support network besides you. Introduce them to their new team and colleagues. If your organisation is assigning a buddy or mentor to your apprentice, introduce them.
  • Champion the apprenticeship within your environment and team and encourage others to give constructive feedback to the apprentice to help them in their development.
  • Facilitate their understanding of the organisation, how they fit into it and where they can find useful resources (e.g., policies, guidance, etc.)
  • Create a relationship with the apprentice in which they feel comfortable asking questions and challenging existing practices.
  • Provide any required job-related training.
  • Ensure the apprentice engages with the OU’s online resources such as webinars, familiarise themselves with the OU websites (e.g. StudentHome, module websites), and to engage with their academic and practice tutors.

The Institute for Apprenticeships has produced a short video on how employers can improve the induction experience.

You, as a Line Manager play a pivotal role in supporting your apprentices in their learning journey. To listen to a line manager’s experience, go to Oana’s Podcast on the Line Managers Guide. In the podcast they mention the role of “talent coach”; at the OU this role is named “Practice Tutor”.

The off-the-job training model offered by the OU is very flexible and leaves you room to agree with your apprentice what their work pattern will be and when and how they can take the time for their off-the-job training. By agreeing the work pattern that allows the apprentice to make the most out of their off-the-job training time, based on their personal learning style, logistics, etc. you are supporting their learning.

Off-the-job training time is managed differently in England and Wales.

For further information about the off-the-job training time for apprenticeships in England, what counts and what doesn’t count as off-the-job training and some examples of good practice, refer to Apprenticeship off-the-job training: policy background and examples.

An apprentice’s English and maths skills should develop during their apprenticeship. However, apprentices in England have a mandatory requirement to complete English and Maths qualifications at level 2 during their apprenticeship if they are unable to formally evidence prior attainment. The OU offers individual and personalised tutoring to support apprentices achieve these qualifications. Employers are required to provide additional off-the-job time if these additional qualifications are required. You can support your apprentices by allowing time off, motivating them during their journey and encouraging them to practise in their workplace the English and maths skills as they learn them.

As a Line Manager you commit to create opportunities for the apprentice to develop skills and behaviours required by the relevant apprenticeship standard. It is your responsibility to provide a wide range of learning and training opportunities.
Should your apprentice’s current role not allow them to develop a certain skill, behaviour or knowledge indicated in the apprenticeship standard, you are expected to create those opportunities for them. We advise you to talk to the Apprenticeship Lead to find ways of offering the apprentice these opportunities, perhaps in a different part of your organisation.

The learning experience is most meaningful for the apprentice when off-the-job training and on-the-job learning are aligned. Although a perfect alignment is difficult to reach, as a Line Manager being familiar with the apprentice’s key milestones and training plans will help you in this task. You can set targets that are clearly linked to the requirements of the end-point assessment and ensure that your apprentice is given tasks where they can easily claim and see the impact of their contribution. Use your regular 1:1 meetings and appraisals to check on your apprentice’s progress and to give them feedback. This will give you evidence on which to base your evaluation at the gateway stage.

The apprentice is expected to log the off-the-job training time and evidence learning. This is a requirement and often apprentices need reminders. Make sure your apprentice(s) update their off-the-job training hours records weekly.

As a line manager you are expected to attend the initial meeting and subsequent tripartite review meetings, which will be held every quarter. These tripartite meetings, meaning that they are between three parties: you on behalf of the employer, the apprentice and the OU as the training provider. It is essential that all three parties are present at these meetings. During the review you will have the opportunity to check the apprentice’s progress from both the practical and the academic perspective, to discuss any challenges, plan the future learning, learn about your apprentice’s key learning milestones and the detailed learning plan for the next months.

In preparation for the meeting, consider what outputs the apprentice has produced since the last meeting, what contributions they have given to your team and what progress they have shown in their work, behaviour and skills. Think also whether there are any concerns you would like to share with the practice tutor or be advised on. You will be required to share your feedback during the review and also provide a signature.

Familiarise yourself with the assessment standard for the apprenticeship programme your apprentices are on. When setting objectives and giving tasks to your apprentice think about how that piece of work can demonstrate the apprentice’s knowledge, skills and behaviours (KSBs) defined in the assessment plan and mention to them what KSBs they are developing. Encourage your apprentice to record their off-the-job hours and to add outputs and reflections to their portfolio regularly throughout the programme and not to leave it until the end.

Inform the OU of any changes or concerns relating to your apprentice and their progress on the programme so they can be addressed in a timely fashion. This can be done either during the quarterly progress review meetings or if it is urgent directly with the assigned Apprenticeship Programme Delivery Manager.

You should familiarise yourself with, and encourage your apprentice to make use of, the extensive support provided by the OU. The OU offers a wide range of support for apprentices and line managers, such as free mentoring training “Mentoring Matters” for line managers and other roles supporting apprentices as well as the OU webinar for line managers.

This section only applies to apprenticeships in England

The employer is asked to confirm that the apprentice is ready for the end-point assessment (EPA). If you are responsible for confirming this in your organisation, you might need to liaise with the Line Manager to receive reassurance about the apprentice’s preparation and readiness.
The EPA organisation (EPAO) is likely to contact you to share information and agree dates for the assessment. They are likely to ask you to make arrangements such as booking a quiet space, make visitor arrangements for an assessor visit, etc. If your apprentice has additional support needs or requires reasonable adjustments, discuss this with the EPAO.
Further guidance on EPA adjustments is available from the Institute for Apprenticeships & Technical Education.

It is important to celebrate the completion of the apprenticeship programme and to recognise your apprentice's achievements.
Once your apprentice has completed their apprenticeship, celebrate their success and the resilience and hard work they have put into this journey. Some employers organise special events.
Not only is celebrating motivating for your apprentice, but it might inspire other employees in your workforce to start an apprenticeship.

This section only applies to apprenticeships in England

The gateway review takes place near the end of an apprenticeship to make sure the apprentice has completed the mandatory aspects of the apprenticeship and is ready to take their end-point assessment (EPA). Apprentices must meet the gateway requirements set out in the assessment plan before taking their EPA. The OU’s Practice Tutors will support your apprentice in preparing for the EPA and the gateway is the point when you as a Line Manager confirm that your apprentice has reached occupational competence, i.e. that they have achieved the knowledge, skills and behaviours defined in the relevant apprenticeship standard and assessment plan. In England this is a mandatory step toward the completion of the apprenticeship.
If the apprentice has been set objectives in line with the apprenticeship standards, you will find it quite straightforward to confirm whether the apprentice has reached occupational competence, but it is always good practice to check the assessment plan again when making the evaluation.

This section only applies to apprenticeships in England

To complete their apprenticeship, apprentices must undertake an end-point assessment (EPA). This is the opportunity for your apprentice to demonstrate the knowledge, skills and behaviours they have developed during their apprenticeship.
Encourage them to work towards their EPA throughout the programme and approach it positively as an opportunity to show what they have learned in their apprenticeship journey.
If your apprentice doesn’t achieve all EPA components at their first time attempt, encourage them to persevere and work with them to support their confidence and preparation for any resits or retakes.

Once your apprentice will have completed the academic qualification that is part of their apprenticeship journey, the OU will invite your apprentice to attend a graduation ceremony to mark the qualification milestone. Even if you are not part of this celebration, ask your apprentice about it and celebrate it in your team.

As they approach the end of their apprenticeship journey, you will know your apprentice’s strengths and what new knowledge, skills and behaviours they have developed. Discuss with them what additional responsibilities they could take on, and/or opportunities for progression in your organisation. Also, help your organisation see how their strengths can be used best to the benefit of the organisation.
You can also suggest what further training opportunities or what schemes your organisation offers that could be useful to the apprentice.
The OU has published a Career Planning Guide that your apprentice can download and that you can use as a guide in your conversation.
In addition, the OU offer a Career Service that your apprentice can access during the apprenticeship and up to three years after completing their qualification. This includes also career consultation sessions with OU career advisors.

Education & Skills Funding Agency Apprenticeships  

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