Employing Apprentices – Three Things You Need to Know

If you are taking on an apprentice for the first time it’s important to set your organisation up for success. Here’s three things you need to know when employing an apprentice in England and Wales.

1. The right contract is key

Whilst apprentices are employees don’t fall into the trap of issuing them with a standard contract of employment!

This is because there are special rules regarding apprentices which mean that it’s more beneficial for an employer to use a type of employment contract called an apprentice agreement. If a correctly drafted apprentice agreement is used and an employer wishes to dismiss the apprentice during the fixed term of the contract, the apprentice has no greater rights than any other employee.

However, if an appropriate apprentice agreement is not used an apprentice can be found to be employed on a ‘traditional contract of apprenticeship’. This makes it significantly more difficult for employers to dismiss should they wish to do so. Traditional contracts of apprenticeship cannot usually safely be terminated prior to the end of the fixed term and if they are, any damages for breach of contract are potentially much greater than would usually be the case for ordinary employees. This protection is in addition to the usual employment law rights.

If your organisation is taking on an apprentice, you should contact Kingfisher Professional Services Ltd as we can assist you by providing an apprentice agreement where required.

2. Make sure you pay apprentices correctly

Apprentices are entitled to be paid at least the National Minimum Wage apprentice rate if they are aged under 19, or they are aged 19 or over and are in the first year of their apprenticeship. The current apprentice rate is £4.30 per hour. As you are probably already aware, the National Minimum Wage rates change every April.

Longer term, it may be worth bearing in mind that once an apprentice is past the first year of their apprenticeship, and they are aged 19 or over, then they are legally entitled to the National Minimum Wage for their age group. This will be higher than the apprentice rate.

3. Be aware of possible discrimination and harassment issues

It’s important to be aware that apprentices and applicants for an apprenticeship have protection against discrimination and harassment. With this in mind, employers should ensure that recruitment practices are fair and that all employees, including apprentices, are treated appropriately during employment. Whilst government funding for younger apprentices is usually higher, employers should avoid setting an upper age limit on applicants for an apprenticeship as this runs the risk of age discrimination.

If you have an employment law matter you would like assistance with, please do not hesitate to contact Kingfisher Professional Services Ltd as we are happy to help.