20% off-the-job training rule for apprenticeships

We know from member feedback that the 20% off-the-job (OTJ) training rule is a concern for some community pharmacies. This page explains the rule and sets out to dispel the myths around it.


It is the responsibility of the apprenticeship training provider and the apprentice’s employer to ensure that an apprentice spends a minimum of 20% of their employed time doing off-the-job training over the duration of the apprenticeship programme, as set out within the Education and Skills Funding Agency’s (ESFA) funding rules.

The NPA has created a guide to ‘off-the-job’ training for community pharmacies – download your copy by clicking on the box to the right or clicking on the thumbnail image below:

Definition of the rule

The definition set out in the ESFA apprenticeship funding rules is as follows:

“Off-the-job training is training received by the apprentice, during the apprentice’s paid hours, for the purpose of achieving their apprenticeship.”

“It is not training delivered for the sole purpose of enabling the apprentice to perform the work for which they have been employed.”

“Off-the-job training is a statutory requirement for an English apprenticeship.”

“Off-the-job training must be directly relevant to the apprenticeship standard, teaching new knowledge, skills and behaviours required to reach competence in the particular occupation.”

Why is the rule necessary?

The government believes that the best way to guarantee the quality of the apprenticeship delivery is to ensure that a considerable element is dedicated to off-the-job training. Although it is essential to acquire job skills for any profession, providing broader learning about the role offers greater understanding and knowledge, skills and behaviours (KSB’s) that the apprentice can bring back to the organisation during their employment.

Why must 20% OTJ training be conducted during the apprentice’s paid hours?

  • An apprenticeship is a work-based programme
  • The training is required to help the apprentice become fully occupationally competent in the workplace. Therefore, it is reasonable that the apprenticeship should be delivered during the apprentice’s working hours
  • It is not appropriate, and would be unfair, to expect an apprentice to undertake the apprenticeship in their own time, in addition to their job role
  • If training must, by exception, take place outside of the apprentice’s working hours, e.g. in the evening or at a weekend, we would expect this to be recognised, for example, through time off in lieu or by an additional payment to the apprentice.

How is 20% OTJ calculated?

  • 20% is the minimum threshold that has been set
  • For apprenticeship standards the practical period where the training is being delivered and new KSB’s are being developed starts at the date that the apprenticeship starts, and ends at the apprentice reaching the gateway requirements
  • Where the apprentice is working full time and requires the full content (decided after initial assessment – therefore they have no prior learning that is recognised) – with a 12 month practical period
    (X weeks (minus statutory leave) x 30 hours) x 0.2. This is for an apprentice that is working full time. E.g. 52 weeks (minus 5.6 weeks statutory annual leave) = 46.4 weeks
    46.4 weeks x 30 hours = 1392 hours
    1392 x 0.2 = 278.4 hours
  • To satisfy the apprenticeship funding rules at least 278.4 hours, worth of OTJ training must be delivered to the apprentice over the 12 month period

What does not count as OTJ training?

  • Training that is being delivered to acquire KSB’s that do not form part of the standard
  • Progress reviews or on-programme assessments
  • Training that takes place outside of an apprentices paid working hours
  • Functional skills support with English and Maths which is funded separately

What does count as OTJ training?

  • Teaching of theory e.g. lectures, role play, simulation exercises, online learning
  • Practical training e.g. shadowing, mentoring
  • Learning support – this counts as learners will need a range of approaches and support which should be addressed
  • Time spent writing assignments – can be included as new KSB’s can be learnt and developed through individual or group assignments

For more examples of what counts as OTJ training in pharmacies, please refer to the NPA’ s guide above.

How is 20% OTJ training recorded?

  • The quantity of delivered OTJ must be recorded on the apprenticeship agreement and the commitment statement.