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Publication - Factsheet

European Structural and Investment Funds: employability participant data

Published: 20 Apr 2017

Answers to frequently asked questions concerning employability data for participants in the European Structural and Investment Funds from 2014 to 2020.

These answers to frequently asked questions have been compiled to share questions raised by various Lead Partners; provide clarification on advice and ensure consistency of approach across Lead Partners.

Lead Partners are encouraged to read the guidance available on the ESIF Division website (inc: The National Rules on Eligibility of Expenditure, Participant Guidance etc) and the Commission's Monitoring and Evaluation of European Cohesion Policy Guidance including Annex D.

1. Barriers to Employmnent / Employment status

A. No. The rural area postcodes were added to the ESIF Division website because rurality is a barrier to employment. In addition, the European Commission requires this participant characteristic to be captured and allow for Member State definitions to be added to those provided in the Monitoring and Evaluation guidance.

There are two classifications:

  • those classed as 'Rural' by the European Commission DEGURBA classification
  • those classed as 'Remote Rural' or 'Very Remote Rural' in the Scottish Government classification.

Therefore, if a participant resides in one of the postcodes areas listed above (using either classification), rurality can be selected as a barrier to employment.

As noted in the Participant Guidance on the ESIF Division website, only one geographical barrier can be claimed for any participant – even if the participant resides in an area that meets the definition for several geographical area classifications.

Q2. Does the barrier 'Primary carer of a child/children (under 18) or adult' include a parent or lone parent or does it specifically only refer to registered Carers?

A. This barrier does not specifically refer to only registered carers.

Q3. Postcodes relating to new housing developments have been identified that lie in datazones within the 15% most employment deprived areas in the 2012 or 2016 SIMD for employment deprivation - if these postcodes are given the same status as those already listed in the Employment Deprived Areas, can this be counted as a barrier to employment.

A. In principle yes if these new developments are directly in the same zone. The MA will consider updating the postcode guidance for new housing developments.

Q4. Can individuals on 'zero-hour' contracts be classed as unemployed?

A. The answer is dependent on the type of intervention:

Pipeline / Social Inclusion & Poverty: Individuals on zero-hours contracts must be classed as 'employed'. These individuals can still be supported on the Employability Pipelines i.e. to assist individuals in achieving an 'improved labour market situation'.

YEI: To be eligible for YEI, young people have to be inactive or unemployed (including long term unemployed). Therefore young people on zero hour contracts are not eligible for YEI support.

Q5. The definition of long term unemployed within the guidance is

"Individuals who are registered as unemployed and in receipt of Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) for:

  • more than 6 months continuous unemployment (under 25)
  • more than 12 months continuous unemployment (over 25)"

Can a participant be classed as long term unemployed if they are in receipt of Employment Support Allowance (ESA) instead of Job Seekers Allowance (JSA)?

A. As long as the individual meets the criteria defined by the EC's Monitoring and Evaluation of European Cohesion Policy Guidance they can be considered 'long-term unemployed'.

Unemployed: "persons usually without work, available for work and actively seeking work. Persons considered as registered unemployed according to national definitions are always included here even if they do not fulfil all three of these criteria."

Long Term Unemployed "The definition of Long-term unemployed (LTU) varies with age:

  • youth (<25 years of age) – more than 6 months continuous spell of unemployment (>6 months).
  • adult (25 years of age or more) – more than 12 months continuous spell of unemployment (>12 months)."

The ESF Participant Guidance was meant to supplement these definitions and provide clarification on the type of documentation that could be provided to evidence eligibility.

In this case, if an individual is unemployed (as evidenced by attending an ESA Work Related Activity Group) and can evidence that they have been unemployed for the appropriate age-dependent qualifying criteria (e.g. via a signed referral from DWP, Benefits Award letter etc), the individual can be classed as 'long-term unemployed'

Q6. Is there a minimum number of hours that are required to be worked for an individual to be considered 'employed' at registration / 'on entry' e.g. 16 hours

A. The answer is dependent on the type of intervention:

Pipeline / Social Inclusion and Poverty: There are no minimum number of hours required for an individual to be considered 'employed'.

YEI: Please note that if an individual is classed as 'employed' (e.g. has a contract of employment at registration for any number of hours) they are not eligible for YEI.

2. Documentation required to evidence barriers

Q1. Would the Managing Authority expect evidence to be provided to support someone's nationality/ citizenship e.g. passport, birth certificate, proof of NI number etc.

A. The Lead Partner should be able to demonstrate that all participants are legally able to reside (and, if relevant to the operation, work) in the UK and, in addition, meet the eligibility criteria for the relevant ESF Priority – please refer to the Participant Guidance on the ESIF Division website.

Q2. Where a signed declaration is provided by DWP / Job Centre Plus (stating that all of the information is correct), would this be sufficient to evidence Name, Address, Date of Birth etc? In addition, would this be sufficient to evidence Barriers?

A. Please refer to the Participant Guidance on the ESIF website.

Q3. Is the Managing Authority in discussion with DWP / Job Centre Plus with regards to assisting Lead Partners with the process of receiving confirmation of an individual's length of unemployment?

A. It is not possible to gain an agreement for standard receipt of confirmation across all local authorities. The MA advises Lead Partners to liaise directly with their local JCP to gain this confirmation.

Q4. Can a Driving Licence be used as evidence of Nationality?

A. Yes – see updated Participant Records guidance on the ESIF Division website. A full or provisional licence is appropriate.

3. Outputs / results

Q1. Is there any guidance about the minimum hours required or length of contract for a job to count as an employment outcome?

A. The answer is dependent on the type of intervention:

Pipeline / Social Inclusion and Poverty: There is no minimum number of hours or contract length required for a job to be reported as an outcome. However, Lead Partners should note that deliberately short-term job opportunities (e.g. Christmas cover) will not be considered as 'in employment' and must not be reported as an outcome via EUMIS.

YEI: Contracts must be for a minimum of 16 hours per week for a job to be considered as an outcome.

Q2. If a participant who received an offer of a college place prior to registering with a Pipeline, is at risk of not attending or taking up this college place without Pipeline support over the summer, can a 'in education or training' outcome be claimed (if the individual subsequently attends college)?

A. No, as it would be difficult to prove that the assistance provided on the Pipeline assisted the participant in taking up their college place as the date on the college letter is prior to the date on the registration form.

In addition, the Commission's Monitoring and Evaluation of European Cohesion Policy Guidance states that there are minimum requirements in place to "avoid the reporting of participants benefitting from extremely short-term or low intensity support, for which it would be very difficult to assess whether the results achieved can be attributed to the ESF support".

Q3. Can zero-hour contracts be recognised as a job outcome?

A. The answer is dependent on the type of intervention:

Pipeline / Social Inclusion and Poverty: While zero-hours contracts can be claimed as job outcomes, Lead Partners are encouraged to ensure that, as far as possible, all jobs are of sufficient quality, sustainable and suitable for the individual concerned - thereby minimising the chances of individuals returning to the pipeline for further support.

YEI Zero-hours contracts are not eligible as job outcomes.

4. Eligible costs

Q1. Are Disclosure certificates eligible i.e. where a participant being supported on the Pipeline requires a Disclosure Certificate take up an employment opportunity?

A. Disclosure certificates are eligible as per section 4.3.3 of the National Rules on Eligibility of Expenditure (see ESIF Division website) – these costs should be "claimed" as part of the percentage of Indirect Costs (Flat Rate) or as part of a Procured delivery contract.

Q2. Are Childcare costs eligible i.e. where a participant may need support to cover initial Childcare costs until a first wage is received?

A. Childcare costs are eligible as per section 4.3.4 of the National Rules on Eligibility of Expenditure (see ESIF Division website) – these costs should be "claimed" as part of the percentage of Indirect Costs (Flat Rate) or as part of a Procured contract.

Q3. The National Rules on Eligibility of Expenditure states that PPE is only eligible when it relates to the delivery of a project, however if a participant has received support through the Pipeline and as a result has been offered employment and require PPE to take up the offer, would this be eligible?

A. Some Participant costs are eligible as per section 4.3.3 of the National Rules on Eligibility of Expenditure (see ESIF Division website) – these costs should be "claimed" as part of the percentage of Indirect Costs (Flat Rate) or as part of a Procured contract. However, it should be noted that equipment relating to employment should be provided by either the employee or employer.

Q4. Are Travel costs eligible i.e. where a participant may need support to cover initial Travel costs until a first wage is received?

A. Travel costs are eligible as per section 4.3.3 of the National Rules on Eligibility of Expenditure (see ESIF Division website) – these costs should be "claimed" as part of the percentage of Indirect Costs (Flat Rate) or as part of a Procured contract.

Q5. Where a Strategic Intervention has two operations (one of which relates to Lead Partner Management costs), is it possible to transfer costs between these operations?

A. Offer of Grants are awarded per operation and are specific to the operation that is included within that offer - any movement of costs between operations would have to go through the formal Change Request process.

It is not possible to transfer Indirect costs between operations - as the costs are directly tied to a specific post / salary.

Q6. Are the following costs eligible:

  • software
  • laptop warranty costs
  • laptop configuration and installation costs A. These costs are eligible and should be "claimed" as part of the percentage of Indirect Costs (Flat Rate) or as part of a Procured delivery contract.

5. Wage subsidies

Q1. Is it possible to allow staged payments to employers at 13 weeks and 26 weeks based on the national minimum wage – employers would be reimbursed by the staged payments.

A. This is acceptable provided that employers have been consulted and are content with this arrangement.

Q2. Is it possible to pay more than the national minimum wage?

A. In exceptional circumstances, the Managing Authority may allow Lead Partners to pay above the national minimum wage – this must be agreed with the Managing Authority in advance. The Managing Authority would expect to be provided with details about the proposed payment amounts and clarification outlining why the increased amount is necessary.

Q3. What is meant by the 'Final Participant' in relation to documentation being checked?

A. The 'Final Participant' is the Participant / Employee.

Q4. Are wage subsidy costs only eligible if the job opportunity is within an SME?

A. No – there is no requirement for the job opportunities to be within an SME only. Lead Partner should ensure that all relevant State Aid regulation are complied with.

Q5. Does the participant have to be at least one day unemployed to be eligible for a wage subsidy?

A. The answer is dependent on the type of intervention:

Pipeline / Social Inclusion and Poverty: Not necessarily - a participant needs to be "eligible" under the terms of the priority and operation they are supported under e.g. under Priority 1 they would have to be unemployed or inactive with multiple barriers to receive assistance as part of a wage subsidy element of an employability pipeline.

YEI: The participant has to be unemployed for at least one day.

Q6. Is holiday pay eligible as part of costs that can be claimed under wage subsidies?

A. Yes – holiday pay is eligible.

Q7. Could you advise if contracts definitely need to be split into wage subsidy and formal job offer or would the MA accept a contract of employment at the start of the wage subsidy that lasts for at least a year to help encourage sustainability.

A. As the pipeline is designed to help the development of participants who have multiple barriers to employment it is important to demonstrate that the operation will have added value. It would be difficult to do this with an open ended job and therefore we would expect to see a contract with a specific period of time (e.g. up to a year) or probationary period specified (e.g. up to a year). Therefore if the job is extended we would expect to see a contract/letter confirming that the job is now permanent.

Please note that this applies to YEI also.

Q8. Is it acceptable for an Employer to approach the Delivery Organisation/Agent with an eligible ESF participant that they are employing and enquire about the Wage Subsidy (if the participant has been sourced and recruited by the employer) - the employer is the beneficiary and they are aware of the ESF Wage Incentive prior to recruitment through the marketing process and liaising with the Employability Officer)?

A. Participants must be registered with the Pipeline / YEI project before they are matched to a wage subsidy opportunity with an employer – this ensures that the individual is eligible for support (i.e. has multiple barriers to employment, has the right to live and work in the UK etc), has an appropriate action plan in place and are aware that they are receiving ESF support. An employer cannot approach the LP asking for someone to be on a wage subsidy.

Wage subsidy opportunities should be brokered between the Lead Partner / delivery agents and the employer– participants should not be recruited by the employer directly. It should be noted that the employer is not 'the beneficiary' of Structural Funds – the participant is 'the end beneficiary'.

Pipeline specific It should be noted that the main focus of the pipeline is to assist individuals with multiple barriers to employment (and who are the furthest away from the labour market) to progress into or through employment – not to provide wage subsidy placements (this is merely an eligible activity within the pipeline to assist individuals into employment). Due to the nature of the participants being assisted, it is anticipated that most participants would require some form of barrier removal activity prior to being able to apply for any wage subsidy opportunities.

6. General

Q1. Are participants on the Employability Fund eligible?

A. The answer is dependent on the type of intervention:

Pipeline: Yes – provided that it can be demonstrated that the activity being delivered is additional.

YEI: No – a young person who is on the Employability Fund is not eligible for YEI support.

Q2. Section 1.8 of the National Rules on Eligibility of Expenditure states that "Use of single source awards must have prior approval by the Managing Authority" - is this the case for "Sole suppliers" also?

A. Yes - approval would be required.

Q3.a. Would it be acceptable to put a brief out to the third sector explaining what the Strategic Intervention requires for effective implementation and asking them to compile a range of organisations (national and local) that could potentially work together to deliver this.

A. No – this would not be acceptable.

Q3b. Does this conflict with the principles of the challenge fund guidance?

A. Yes – this would conflict with the challenge fund guidance. There should be a formal process i.e. an open and transparent process, clear criteria, applications, evaluations and assessments.

Q4. What is the definition of Workforce Returner?

A. The status for these individuals would be either 'Unemployed' or 'Inactive' i.e. individuals returning to work after a deliberate period of absence.

Q5. How should MAPPA participants be recorded – given that Scottish Government guidelines stipulate that all information relating to these individuals should be paper based and stored securely within a locked filing cabinet?

A. There is no requirement for MAPPA participants to be logged on the Lead Partner's MIS as long as they are correctly logged on EUMIS (where the only identifier would be the individuals National Insurance number – combined with relevant multiple barriers i.e. criminal convictions). In addition, paper copies of the files should be retained (albeit securely – as stated) - if the individuals are picked for verification, the files would be viewed on-site.

Q6. Gender – are there any other options other than 'Male' or 'Female' i.e. Transgender?

A. No. The Commission have stipulated that data should be collected relating to 'Male' and 'Female' only. Participants should be encouraged to choose the gender that they most identify with.

Commission Monitoring and Evaluation Guidance: Annex D, section 5.2.1: "The term "sex" refers to the biological and physiological characteristics that define men and women while the term "gender" refers to the social representation of male and female attributes. Given that for some people the issue of gender is sensitive, for the purposes of ESF monitoring it is recommended that:

  • in cases where information is collected directly from participants the gender identity of participants should be recorded (i.e. the sex/gender that the participant wishes to be identified with)…"

Q7. What is the minimum 'working age'?

A. The answer is dependent on the type of intervention:

Pipeline: The minimum working age relates to when an individual is legally able to leave school – this is dependent on when the individual turns 16

Where an individual turns 16:  between 1 March and 30 September – they can leave school after the 31 May of that year  between 1 October and the last day of February – they can leave at the start of the Christmas holidays in that school year Example of 15 year old being of working age: Participant A is 15 years old and their DOB is 29/09/2001. As their 16th Birthday falls between 1 March and 30 September, Participant A is allowed to leave school from 31 May. Therefore, even though Participant A is still only 15 years of age, between 31 May – 29 September, they are allowed to start full-time work – as they have reached the minimum school leaving age.

YEI Participants must be between 16 and 29 years of age to be eligible for YEI support.

Q8. Can a young person who is active on an Activity Agreement via Opportunities for All funding access ESF also?

A. The answer is dependent on the type of intervention:

Pipeline: Yes – provided that it can be demonstrated that the activity being delivered is additional and there are no related targets or outputs attached to the funding.

YEI: No – a young person who is active on an Activity Agreement is not eligible for YEI support.

Q9. If an individual has 'no recourse to public funds' noted on their residency or permit, are they still eligible for ESF support?

A. Yes. 'No recourse to public funds' means that individuals are not able to 'claim most benefits, tax credits or housing assistance that are paid by the state.' However, Public funds do not include benefits that are based on National Insurance contributions. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/public-funds--2/public-funds

In relation to ESF, since the interventions are delivering services related to employability and / or social inclusion and poverty, and not providing welfare type payments, participants who have 'no recourse to public fund' are considered eligible for support (provide they meet all other eligibility criteria for the intervention).

7 April 2017

European Structural Funds and State Aid Division

Published:
20 Apr 2017
European Structural and Investment Funds: employability participant data