Skills Development Providers (SDPs) & Training Providers

Questions on how to complete a Learnership after retrenchment

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    sylvia hammond

    There are a number of reasons – set out in the Labour Relations Act – why employers might contemplate retrenchments, and need to consult with employees.

    If there are employees on a Learnership programme that still has months to run, what is the situation if the employee accepts a retrenchment package, and also wants to complete the Learnership?

    Completing the Learnership would almost certainly assist a retenched person to find a new job, with their new qualification. So it would be beneficial to the retrenched employee – and the employer would have already paid for the Learnership, so they will get the service that they paid for.

    Technically the ex-employee becomes an unemployed 18(2) learner. The legislation requires an employment contract, so the parties could complete a fixed term contract. But if there is no longer the work to do – would the employer need to pay the learner?

    Is there any means of applying for an exemption from standard practice? Who would be responsible for an application for such an exception to standard practice? The DoL (infringing BCEA) or the DHET?

    Then the training provider would complete the Learnership – are there any implications for assessment, and certification?

    If the Learnership was included in a Discretionary Grant as a PIVOTAL programme, what are the implications for the discretionary grant funding?

    Interested to hear from experts in our field.

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    Zebilon Mmekwa

    Hi Sylvia,
    Firstly, I am not an expert but have an understanding on how Learnership work.
    Learnership is based on legally binding agreement between the Employer, a Learner and a Training Provider and this agreement is valid for the time period of learneship. It is also designed to protect the interest of each party. Any learner in learnership program sign both employment contract which is valid for the period of learnership and learnership agreement. Rightfully, learnership agreement will still be in force during retrenchment period.Therefore, the employer must ensure that the contract continues up to end of learnership, which is 24 months for the completion of the qualification.
    The money (stipend) that is given to the learner will still be applicable because that is the money the employer claimed from the relevant SETA. In case of a learner to complete the qualification, this can be arranged with the service provider to squeeze him/her in a group doing the same qualification somewhere.
    There are only certain circumstances employer can terminate the contract of learnership and that are if:
    – the duration specified in the learnership agreement has
    – the employer and learner have agreed in writing to
    terminate learnership agreement provided the relevant
    SETA approves the termination.
    – the learner is fairly dismissed for a reason related to
    the learner’s conduct or capacity as an employee.
    In the first place, why did the employer applied for selected learnerships in the company?
    SETAs manage the registration of learnerships in order to meet the skills development needs across the sectors.
    For more information, you can contact the SETA that manages the learnership in the field in which you are interested.
    That’s a bit of information I have, Sylvia.

    sylvia hammond

    Dear Zebilon,
    Thank you for spelling that out – I do agree with you on all the terms of a Learnership.

    But if a company faces economic pressure for example, and needs to consult with the employees. It is usual to try to keep employees in work if possible, and to offer employees options like early retirement, or voluntary retrenchment to take a package to save other jobs – because the employee taking the package wants to do something else – like start their own business, etc. So that is this example.

    On contacting the SETA, yes you are absolutely correct – but that was not possible because after many emails and phone calls, the SETA staff still did not respond.

    So I think that the question is – when companies are doing through retrenchment exercises, how should they handle Learnerships that are in progress?

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