Explaining the Apprenticeship Levy

In 2017, the UK government introduced the Apprenticeship Levy, a tax on employers to fund new apprenticeships and training programs. 

The levy was introduced as part of the government’s plan to create three million new apprenticeships by 2020 and to address the skills gap in the UK workforce.

What is the Apprenticeship Levy?

The Apprenticeship Levy is a tax on UK employers with a wage bill of over £3 million per year. The tax is calculated at a rate of 0.5% of the employer’s annual pay bill and is paid to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) through the PAYE system.

Employers who pay the levy can access the funds through a digital apprenticeship service account. 

They can use the funds to pay for apprenticeship training and assessment for their own employees or for apprenticeship training for other employers in their supply chain.

Employers who do not pay the levy can still access apprenticeship training and assessment, but they will need to make a co-investment contribution of 5% towards the cost of training and assessment. The government will pay the remaining 95% of the cost.

Benefits of the Apprenticeship Levy

The Apprenticeship Levy has several benefits for both employers and employees:

1. Access to high-quality training: The levy ensures that employers have access to high-quality apprenticeship training and assessment that meets their specific needs.

2. Improved productivity: Apprenticeships can improve the productivity of businesses by developing the skills and knowledge of their employees.

3. Increased staff retention: Apprenticeships can increase staff retention as employees are more likely to stay with a company that invests in their development.

4. Reduced skills gap: The levy is designed to address the skills gap in the UK workforce by providing more opportunities for people to gain the skills and qualifications they need to succeed in their chosen career.

5. Enhanced reputation: Companies that invest in apprenticeships and training can enhance their reputation as an employer that is committed to the development of its staff.

Challenges of the Apprenticeship Levy

Despite its benefits, the Apprenticeship Levy has faced several challenges since its introduction:

1. Complexity: The apprenticeship system can be complex, with many different types of apprenticeships and funding rules. This can make it difficult for employers to understand and access the funding.

2. Underutilisation: Many employers are not using the funds they have paid into the levy, with reports suggesting that as much as £1.28 billion of levy funds went unused in 2019-20.

3. Lack of flexibility: The funding rules can be inflexible, with restrictions on what the funds can be used for and how they can be accessed.

4. Quality concerns: There have been concerns about the quality of some apprenticeship training and assessment, with reports of employers using the funds to pay for substandard training.


The Apprenticeship Levy is an important initiative aimed at improving the skills and knowledge of the UK workforce. 

While there are challenges to its implementation, the levy has the potential to benefit both employers and employees by providing access to high-quality training and addressing the skills gap. Employers who pay the levy should make sure they are using the funds effectively to ensure they are getting the most out of their investment.