The working arrangements of many firms have altered due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Financial Conduct Authority has stressed that, during the period of disruption, firms still have an obligation to ensure relevant individuals remain competent to carry out their duties.

However, the FCA has acknowledged that it may be more difficult for employees to complete Continuing Professional Development (CPD) during the health crisis. Face-to-face seminars and training sessions have, of course, all but ceased entirely.

Where possible, employees who need to carry out CPD should examine what development activities are still available from the likes of the Accredited Bodies and professional qualifications providers. For example, many online training courses and other resources are still available.

The FCA also stresses that employees who have been furloughed will still need to demonstrate their competence in returning to work, and encourages firms to support furloughed staff by providing them with materials to complete their CPD. Firms should also ensure that anyone who is working from home knows where they can access relevant CPD.

The FCA recognises that there may be “exceptional circumstances” that prevent an employee from completing the prescribed minimum amount of CPD. Retail investment advisers are required to complete 35 hours of CPD each year, while certain employees in the insurance distribution sector need to complete 15 hours.

As well as an individual is unable to access appropriate CPD, the FCA recognises that there are two other scenarios in which an employee might be excused from the requirement to complete their usual amount of CPD. These are:

  • Where the individual’s role within the firm requires them to devote extra time to deal with the consequences of the pandemic. For example, they may now need to provide additional support to affected customers and/or may need to spend more time managing risks that relate to Covid-19
  • Where the individual has additional family responsibilities as a result of coronavirus, such as having to provide additional care for a relative

These scenarios cover the situation where an individual continues to report for work. The FCA already has a rule allowing firms to suspend CPD requirements for those on long-term sick leave.

Where an employee is unable to complete the prescribed amount of CPD, the FCA will allow individuals to defer some of their CPD until the next year. This would mean that, if an adviser could only complete 30 hours of CPD in the current 12-month period, they could compensate for this by completing 40 hours in the following 12-month period.

This special dispensation can be used by employees of any firm whose ‘CPD year’ is scheduled to end prior to April 1 2021.

Where a firm allows an employee to defer some of their CPD, there is no requirement to inform the FCA. However, firms are still expected to document internally why they have allowed the deferral to take place, together with details of how much CPD is to be deferred. In the case of financial advisers, this information will also need to be provided to the Accredited Body that will certify that the adviser remains competent.

The FCA says:

“We expect individuals to stay up to date with our Covid-19 regulatory requirements, which could count towards CPD as relevant. Firms should also look into other available online equivalents to training courses or other ways for their staff to get the necessary CPD. Firms should take these other options into account as part of their decision to carry over CPD hours.”

The information shown in this article was correct at the time of publication. Articles are not routinely reviewed and as such are not updated. Please be aware of the facts, circumstances or legal position may change after publication of the article.