The Confederation of British Industry has called for greater flexibility on how businesses can manage the upcoming apprenticeship levy – which is expected to affect some 200 law firms.

The 0.5% levy on company payrolls, which will be imposed on businesses with wage bills of over £3m a year,  will be charged from April 2017.

Current government guidance suggests law firms will not be able to use apprenticeship funding towards the costs of training contracts.

The government defines an apprentice as someone working within an approved trailblazer scheme or through the apprenticeship framework.

CBI director general Carolyn Fairbairn (pictured) urged the government to ‘radically rethink’ its levy plans. She said that the levy ‘misunderstands’ training by seeing it only in terms of apprenticeships.  

‘Companies are having to change the spec of graduate or management training schemes – programmes that are working perfectly well – just to fit apprenticeship standards,’ she said. ‘When it comes to training, business knows best. They should have the flexibility to choose the kind of training which is right for them, whether it’s labelled an apprenticeship or not.’

She noted that levy systems in France, Germany and Ireland give greater flexibility on spending than the UK government is proposing.

She urged the government to work with business to resolve issues before the levy is implemented.