Continuing Professional Development (CPD) and professional qualification exams during coronavirus

Find out more about how firms can help staff continue their CPD during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, allowing individuals to carry over their CPD, and our approach to professional qualification exams.

During the coronavirus pandemic, we expect firms to continue to demonstrate that relevant individuals remain competent to carry out their work.

This includes employees as referred to in the Training and Competence sourcebook and employees carrying on insurance distribution activities as referred to in SYSC 28.2 and TC 4.2.

Effective and consistent CPD is an essential part of this. But in these exceptional circumstances we are also allowing firms to defer individuals’ CPD to the next CPD year.

How firms can help staff continue their CPD

We expect most individuals will be able to continue completing CPD whilst on furlough or working from home. CPD activities can include e-learning and other content that can be completed at home. We know that firms, Accredited Bodies and professional qualifications providers are helping individuals by providing this material. We also expect firms will support furloughed staff with materials to complete their CPD, as they have done previously.

Firms most likely to be affected by continuing CPD requirements

But we also recognise that there could be exceptional circumstances when individuals may have difficulty completing the required minimum CPD hours. We expect this to have an impact on firms:

  • who must ensure their retail investment advisers complete the required minimum 35 hours of CPD and get independent verification from an accredited body that the firm has met this requirement  
  • carrying on insurance distribution activities, who must ensure that each relevant employee completes a minimum of 15 hours of professional training or development in each 12-month period

Allowing individuals to carry over their CPD

So, during the current situation we will temporarily allow firms to let individuals in exceptional circumstances carry over any uncompleted CPD hours to the next CPD year, ie the next 12-month period in which to complete the relevant CPD. This applies to CPD years ending before 1 April 2021.

We expect individuals to stay up to date with our Covid-19 regulatory developments 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.

Conditions for carrying over CPD hours to the following 12 month CPD period

When firms may do this

Firms can allow this when an individual, due to the current exceptional circumstances, will not be able to complete their CPD hours in their current CPD period.

The individual must then complete the carried-over CPD hours within the next CPD period. The carried over hours will be treated as part of the required CPD hours of that next CPD year on top of the hours already required. For example, if an adviser who is required to complete a minimum of 35 hours of CPD, has completed 25 CPD hours and has 2 months left of the current CPD year, the firm may allow them to transfer 10 hours to their next CPD year. This means that in the next CPD year the adviser will need to complete 45 CPD hours. This can be structured and / or unstructured learning depending on the make-up of the outstanding CPD.  

Where a firm, in accordance to this guidance, has made the decision to carry over uncompleted CPD hours to the next CPD period, we will treat the firm as having complied with the requirements for the current CPD period.

What circumstances can count as ‘exceptional’

  • When individuals during the current pandemic:
    • are needed to carry out extra duties to manage risks, and/or to provide support, to consumers and businesses during the current situation
    • have caring responsibilities, such as having to care for a partner, child, parent, grandparent or sibling
    • have difficulties accessing CPD material, for example, due to technical difficulties or unavailable material, and
  • Where it is not realistic to expect the individual also to fulfil the CPD requirements.

We remind firms that we have rules in place for long-term illness implications, as described in TC 2.1.17.

What firms will need to take into account

Firms will need to take into account:

  • the individual’s role and responsibilities
  • the individual’s knowledge and skill development, (including any relevant Covid-19- related training) during the current CPD year and their continued competence 
  • the number of CPD hours they intend to carry over
  • the individual’s circumstances during the current situation
  • the reasons why the individual is unable to complete the relevant CPD

Firms should record their decision and the reasons for it, including the number of CPD hours the individual is carrying over to the next CPD year, but do not need to report this to the FCA.

Independent verification and statement of professional standing (SPS):

To get independent verification for the adviser, the firm will need to confirm to the accredited body that the adviser is and remains competent for the purposes of TC2.1.1R.

In these cases, an accredited body may verify compliance with TC 2.1.15R and we will not consider this as a breach.

Professional qualification exams

Accredited bodies and other professional qualification providers are cancelling exams because of coronavirus with no specific arrangements in place to reschedule them. We expect this to have an impact on firms that must ensure their employees complete appropriate qualifications within a specific time limit, in line with FCA requirements.

During the period linked to the emergency, we still require firms to ensure that all employees have the skills, knowledge and expertise needed to discharge their responsibilities. However, we have no intention of taking action against a firm or accountable individual that is not able to ensure that an employee has attained an appropriate qualification within the required 48 months (TC 2.2A.1R) because the relevant examinations were cancelled or postponed. In these circumstances:

  • We will treat the time limit for attaining the appropriate qualification as ‘within 48 months or, where necessary, as soon as reasonably practicable afterwards, up to a further 12 months’ instead of ‘within 48 months’. Affected employees of the firm will, if needed, have an additional 12 months to complete the appropriate qualifications. Firms will need to assess and decide if an extension should be granted to an employee and record the reasons for this.
  • A firm’s affected employees include those employees that have a set (registered/booked) examination date(s) which was cancelled or postponed by the examination provider or by the firm. For example, because the employee is needed to carry out extra duties to manage risks, and/or to provide support, to consumers and businesses during these challenging times, and where it is not realistic to expect the employee also to fulfil the qualification requirement.

We will adopt this approach for 6 months, until 31 October 2020. This means that firms may apply a time limit of up to 60 months where examinations were cancelled or postponed, up to and including 31 October 2020.

Page updates

08/01/2021: Information added Professional qualification exams section moved to page.