Businesses are to be given just six months to prepare for the launch of the apprenticeship levy, according to documents released today.
In a summer consultation, the government has laid out the arithmetic behind plans allowing businesses to deduct the training of their own apprentices from the levy, which is set at 0.5 per cent of their payroll.
However, with a consultation on the proposals running until 5 September and final rules - as well as further technical details - due in October ahead of an April launch, business groups say they are not being given enough time to prepare.
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Confederation of British Industry director-general, Carolyn Fairbairn, said the levy requires a much larger reassessment than the current consultation allows.
“The levy is too narrowly defined. It covers only one type of training and employers can only reclaim off-the-job costs. As a result, valuable forms of training risk being cut back, with quantity put ahead of quality,” Fairbairn said.
“The April 2017 start date will not give firms sufficient time to prepare, so we urge the Government to delay implementation. Though business understands the fiscal challenges, it would be a great mistake to rush ahead before a viable scheme is ready.
“We urge the new Secretary of State to take a step back from the political timetable and consider what is best for building the skills of our young people, to enable the UK to become a high-skilled, high-productivity economy.”
British Chambers of Commerce director of research Mike Spicer noted the government has also promised to fully fund 16 to 18-year-old apprentices, and contribute up to 90 per cent of the training costs for businesses that the co-investment rate for non-levy payers will be set at 10 per cent.
Spicer added: “It is disappointing however that businesses will have to wait until October, just six months before the proposed implementation date of the levy, for details of the technical rules.
“Indeed, the time-scale seems very compressed for a complex policy that relies on a major IT set-up.”
A spokeswoman for the department for education responded: "In designing the funding policy we have engaged thousands of employers and training providers and their feedback has informed the proposals. All employers and training providers will now have a chance to feedback on the proposals for apprenticeship funding."
They added: "The levy was announced in the 2015 Budget, meaning employers will have had almost two years to prepare and plans for this change the time it is implemented."