Apprentices and Employment Status


Employing an apprentice can be great for your business, as you are supporting the training of an individual who is keen to start a career in your field of expertise and with a view to retaining them within the business longer term and them potentially continuing to climb the career ladder with you.

There is often are a lot of common misconceptions about apprentices' and their employment status and as an employer, you need to ensure that you are doing everything correctly, and more importantly, legally with your new employee.

We thought it'd be useful to answer some of the most common questions that are asked:

I don't employ the apprentice though do I, because the agreement is with the college?

Yes you do! Any agreement you as the employer have with the college relates to their educational studies only and any associated terms. This is NOT an employment contract.

So, does my apprentice needs a contract?

Short answer is yes, they have the same employment rights as any other employee. An apprentice will require a contract detailing the fundamentals including their wages, holiday entitlement, hours of work, rest breaks.

A key point however is to ensure you have the right sort of contract for your apprentice. This is usually called an Apprenticeship Agreement. Whilst the fundamentals may be the same, the agreement usually explicitly states that the term of engagement will be for a fixed period and sets out the date the agreement will end on or before, i.e. the expected completion date of the apprenticeship.

The contract should also outline your commitment to supporting the training and instruction of the apprentice during the course of their apprenticeship to help them in successfully achieving this.

There are usually early termination clauses in there too to cover eventualities such as the apprentice completing their training earlier than anticipated or in some cases, if they are failing to meet the standard required in completing the training, attendance at college etc. If your apprentice does something that is viewed to be misconduct/gross misconduct, you would handle this in the usual way with the disciplinary policy, although you may, depending on length of service, exercise discretion in choosing to follow a shortened process.

You should also ensure there is some wording to indicate that efforts will be made to determine whether an offer of employment will be made to the apprentice on completion of the apprenticeship but be clear that this is not guaranteed (unless of course you can!).

What should I be paying my apprentice?

Under the current pay rates published 1st April 2018, the rate of pay for an apprentice aged under 19 or over 19 an in their first year of apprenticeship is £3.70 per hour. Apprentices over 19 years of age who have completed their first year of apprenticeship are then entitled to receive the National Minimum Wage (NMW) for their age, for all hours spent at work and/or completing training under the apprenticeship.

As an employer you can, if you choose to, pay more than the NMW from the beginning and there are many that do. Just remember that if you choose to pay more, you need to continue this for the remainder of the training or until the individual becomes eligible for NMW are outlined above. The key thing is to make sure you are paying at least the minimum wage for an apprentice. Some payroll systems will flag when an individuals pay needs looking at if it is potentially to fall below NMW but it's best to have some method of manual review in place too to ensure this doesn't happen.

Remember, NMW rates are due to increase from 1st April 2019 and for apprentices, this means an increase in pay to £3.90 per hour.

When do I pay my apprentice?

You process apprentices pay with the rest of your employee payroll and pay weekly/monthly depending on what your business does.

What hours can my apprentice work?

Given that many apprentices are young and of school leaving age*, there is a legal limit in place preventing those under the age of 18 from working more than a specified number of hours per week.

The Working Time Directive still applies to apprentices, this is set at 40 hours a week for under 18s and an average of 48 hours for over 18s, which means that whilst they may work more than this one week, it should be balanced out by working less in another. The average is worked out over a 17 week period. Remember you cannot force an individual to work beyond this limit unless they choose to willingly opt out.

What breaks do I need to give my apprentice?

Apprentices are entitled to at least one 20 minute break for every six hours that they are working and at least 11 hours off between shifts. It's important to ensure that you aren't breaching the working time regulations, and that they have either an uninterrupted 24 hours without any work each week or an uninterrupted 48 hours without any work each fortnight.

What about Holidays?

Apprentices are be entitled to at least one and a half days’ paid holiday for every month of their training which is equivalent to the statutory 28 days. If you offer more than this to other employees, then your apprentice should be given equal entitlement unless earned with seniority.

I am considering taking on an apprentice in 2019, will the Apprenticeship Levy funding be open to me?

For companies with turnover of more than £3 million per year, you will already be paying into the Levy and have a 'pot' available for training to access.

For smaller employers who may not have to pay into the Levy, 2019 brings good news if you are considering taking on an apprentice. Previously you wouldn't have been eligible to access funding unless you received a transfer of funds from a paying levy employer under the scheme.

From mid 2019, Government guidance indicates that non-levy paying employers will be able to share the cost of training and assessment costs for their apprentices with government, paying 10% towards to the cost of apprenticeship training and government will 'top' up the rest (90%), up to the funding band maximum.

Please note our blog posts contain general information and are intended as guidance only and should not be taken as an authoritative or current interpretation of the law. Please ensure that you obtain advice tailored to your individual situation before taking action. These posts apply to the UK only.

* Although not always, apprenticeships can be completed at any age so long as the individual is over 16 and not in full time education.

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