What do employer-providers need to know about the ESFA?

Employer-providers have more rules to follow than regular training providers.

What do employer-providers need to know about the ESFA?

If you're an employer-provider delivering apprenticeships, you have to follow the ESFA’s rules to a tee. The ESFA aren’t known for being lenient, and if they find non-compliance issues in your data, you could be hit with a hefty fine or even have funds recovered. It’s serious business – especially for employer-providers.

Despite being new(ish) to the sector, employer-providers have more rules to follow than regular training providers. You have to make sure your apprenticeships are valid, and you're not allowed to make a profit from your delivery.

Employer-providers – take note:

Initial assessment is really important

As an employer-provider, the ESFA will look closely to make sure your apprentices are right for the course – that the apprenticeship is valid and appropriate for the apprentice. They want to make sure employer-providers aren’t using their levy funds to pay for unnecessary training.

You need to make sure all apprentices complete an initial assessment before they start their programme to recognise their prior learning. You’ll then need to adjust the course duration, content and funding claim according to this prior learning. The ESFA says ‘funds must not be used to pay for training for skills, knowledge and behaviours already attained by the apprentice. We make take action to recover apprenticeship funding where this happens.’

Make sure your data is accurate

What you record in your ILR every month is really important and must match the delivery journey. The ILR data can’t be manipulated in any way – even if you think changing the data will make it easier to understand.

The ILR must accurately reflect what has happened. Where your data does not support the funding you have claimed, we will take action to get this corrected and could recover funds.’

Don’t rely on subcontractors

Your subcontractor may have more experience in apprenticeship delivery than you, but you can’t rely on them to deliver full programmes. According to the ESFA, ‘the volume of training that you deliver directly must have substance and must not be a token amount to satisfy this rule. It must not be limited to just a few of a large number of apprentices.

As ever with the ESFA, the rules are a little vague. ‘Must have substance’ isn’t a clear-cut statement, so make sure you’re delivering a large proportion of training so they can’t find you non-compliant.

Don’t make a profit

Employer-providers are not allowed to make a profit from apprenticeship delivery – whether they’re using their own levy contributions or coinvesting with the Government to pay for training. In essence, employer-providers ‘pay themselves’ to deliver training, so you have to work out and record your exact costs so you know how much to claim back.

You’re allowed to claim for training and assessment costs, admin, travel and software costs, and salaries and on-costs of employees directly involved in apprenticeship training. You need to ‘enter costs onto the ILR and evidence how all costs are calculated.’


The ESFA will look closely at these 4 areas, so make sure you pay extra attention to your ILR and initial assessment processes. Of course, human error can’t always be avoided, but using an eportfolio, electronic ILR and funding calculator will help you minimise irregularities and reduce non-compliance across your business.

To help you stay compliant and avoid potential red flag at audit, we’ve created a list of the most common errors providers make that result in 100% auditing.

Download list


This article includes research and opinion sourced by OneFile at the time of publication. Things may have changed since then,
so this research is to be used at the reader's discretion. OneFile is not liable for any action taken based on this research.