Hiring an apprentice? What are the employment law considerations?

Fri 6th Jul 2018

Coodes Solicitors Employment Lawyer Philip Sayers outlines the legal considerations for employers who are considering hiring an apprentice.

For centuries, apprenticeships have provided people with training and a chance to learn a trade while giving employers access to new talent. In recent years, the Government has heavily pushed apprenticeships, with a number of schemes being launched.

Although the concept is not new, the legal position has changed. There are a number of considerations for employers who are hiring an apprentice.

What is an apprenticeship?

An apprenticeship combines work, training and study. Apprentices are paid while they work alongside their studies, with training costs being funded by the employer and/or Government. While apprenticeships are often associated with hands-on jobs, they are now common across sectors, from catering to engineering, veterinary nursing or accountancy.

Terminating an apprenticeship’s contract

There are two types of apprenticeships: common law and statutory apprenticeships. Modern apprenticeships are generally statutory apprenticeships and these are set up as contracts of employment. That means that, it is now much easier for an employer to end an apprenticeship in the same way as dismissing an employee. A common law apprentice is generally for a fixed term and cannot be terminated except in cases of extreme misconduct. Wrongly terminating a common law apprenticeship can mean very significant compensation for the apprentice. Because the rules governing each of these types of apprenticeships are so different, it is important to get advice and understand which type of apprentice you are employing. For all the Government schemes, apprentices are employed under statutory apprenticeships. That means that the employer can terminate the contract and apprentices can also claim against the employer for discrimination and unfair dismissal. However, it is worth knowing they would generally need two years’ service to bring an unfair dismissal claim.

Complying with legislation: an Apprenticeship Agreement

If you are employing an apprentice under a statutory apprenticeship it is important that you comply with Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009 (ASCLA) legislation. If you do not comply, your apprenticeship would be legally classified as a common law apprenticeship, meaning you are unable to terminate the contract.

Complying with this legislation means setting out a written Apprenticeship Agreement, which forms the contract between the apprentice and employer. The exact content of this contract will depend on the nature of your business and of the apprentice’s role, but the Government has provided a useful template.

An apprentice’s employment rights

Under a statutory apprenticeship, an apprentice has very similar rights to any employee. That includes holiday pay, sick leave and rest breaks.

Apprentices should be paid for their work. The minimum wage for an apprentice is £3.70 per hour. This applies to apprentices under 19 and those aged 19 or over in their first year. After the first year, apprentices aged 19 or over are entitled to the National Minimum Wage. Employers should also pay for the apprentice’s training.

Of course, employers also have the same health and safety responsibilities towards apprentices as any other members of staff.

If it is run well, an apprenticeship should benefit the business and the apprentice. If you are considering hiring an apprentice, do your homework and seek advice if you are unsure about anything.

For more information on this or any Employment enquiries contact Philip Sayers, Employment team, Coodes Solicitors on 01872 246200 or philip.sayers@coodes.co.uk

Fri 6th Jul 2018

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