What is an apprentice?
An apprentice is someone doing a real job, whilst also learning a skill or trade. They provide an extra pair of hands in your business, with increasing skills and capabilities. However, you are providing a learning opportunity, they are not expected to be operating at full speed from day one.
Your commitments to the apprentice
As an employer, employing an apprentice in England (different rules apply in other areas of the UK) you have a number of commitments to the apprentice:
- Provide employment at least 30 hours per week, including time spent in off the job training.
- Employ the apprentice for the full length of the training programme, a minimum of one year up to five years.
- At least 20% of their working time must be spent in off the job training.
- Paying the apprentice for time spent in training.
- Issue an apprenticeship agreement, including the requirements to provide a statement of particulars under the Employment Rights Act 1996.
- Pay at least the appropriate national minimum or living wage.
- Ensure you are complying with all employment and health and safety legislation.
- If the apprentice is 16 to 18 years old they must be supervised at all times and you must have a safeguarding policy in place.
In addition to the employment commitments you must support the work of the apprentice towards their studies, ensuring they are making suitable progress and allowing their trainers access to the apprentice in their workplace. As this is a learning experience the apprentice must be working with experienced staff.
Whilst your apprentice will be getting their formal training through a training provider you are also responsible for providing a learning experience. Learning the expectations of work, what is and isn’t appropriate will fall to you as an employer.
You should have an induction programme designed specifically for apprentices, taking into account this may be a first job or at least a first role in your industry. Expectations around attendance, punctuality, reporting sickness and booking holiday should be explained explicitly. Policies such as social media, IT usage, uniforms and the grievance procedure may need explaining rather than just being handed out.
Apprentice contracts generally only run for the length of the apprentice training, there is no legal requirement to offer work once the contract is completed. However, it is important that the agreement is correctly worded to avoid guaranteeing work within the contract.
In addition to the requirement to issue a statement of particulars as required by the Employment Rights Act 1996, there are a number of requirements of the Apprentice Agreement. This agreement should be correct to ensure the relationship is an apprentice one rather than an employment relationship.
Can I dismiss an Apprentice?
An individual employed under an Apprentice Agreement may be dismissed in the same way as any other employee. However, as with all employees the appropriate process must be followed and dismissal must be reasonable.
An apprentice can be dismissed through the disciplinary procedure for gross misconduct and if they breach the terms of their agreement. In determining whether dismissal is reasonable, their lack of experience and skill as an apprentice and your role as an employer to educate them must be taken into account.
When you take on an apprentice you are committing to them learning a skill and gaining a qualification. Failure to provide this, for example running out of money to pay them, will be a breach of contract, potentially resulting in an Employment Tribunal awarding not just loss of wages but also covering losses of future earnings. Consider that an apprentice who has completed their qualification would be considerably more employable and earn more than one who hasn’t completed that qualification.
How can Silk Helix help?
- Provide Apprentice Agreement templates ensuring your terms of employment are compliant and meet the needs of your business.
- Provide advice if you are experiencing issues with an apprentice or are looking for guidance prior to employing an apprentice.
- Support with Induction processes.
- Train Managers and experienced staff to support apprentices, ensuring you offer the best experience to your apprentices whilst maximising the productivity of your apprentices.
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Article last updated: 31 October 2021
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