Apprentices

There are a number of employee/employer relationships which are now different from the traditional 9-5 job. A person's employment status will determine their rights and their employer's responsibilities.

Apprentices can be aged 16 and over and will combine work with study for a work-based qualification, from GCSEs or equivalent to degree level.

Key points

  • Apprentices can be anyone over the age of 16 and not in full time education.
  • Apprenticeships can be for school leavers or those who are seeking to start a new career.
  • Many of the special protections for young workers in the working time regulations will apply to apprentices.
  • An apprentice must work with experienced staff.

Apprenticeships are work-based training programmes which will lead to a nationally recognised qualification. Apprentices will normally attend day release at local colleges or specialist training providers as part of their training, which can take between one to four years to complete, depending on the level of apprenticeship.

As employees apprentices would normally be expected to work for at least 30 hours per week, for which employers can receive funding from the National Apprentice Service, however, funding will depend on the sector and the age of the apprentice.

Apprentices and the National Minimum Wage (NMW)

Apprentices under 19 years or 19 years and over and in the first year of their apprenticeship are entitled to £3.50 per hour. However, the employer may choose to pay the apprentice at a higher rate.

Once the apprentice reaches 19 years and has completed the first year of the apprenticeship the employer must pay the full NMW rate.

All other apprentices are eligible for the full National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage for their age.

Apprentices and the working time regulations for young people

Many of the special protections in these regulations for young workers under 18 will apply to apprentices, for example young workers must not exceed the 8 hour a day or 40 hours per week. They are also entitled to paid holidays and rest breaks of at least 30 minutes if their shift lasts more than four and half hours.

The 3 levels of apprenticeship

  1. Intermediate Level Apprenticeships - apprentices work towards work-based learning qualifications such as a Level 2 Competence Qualification, Functional Skills and, in most cases, a relevant knowledge-based qualification.
  2. Advanced Level Apprenticeships - apprentices work towards work-based learning such as a Level 3 Competence Qualification, Functional Skills and, in most cases, a relevant knowledge-based qualification.
  3. Higher Apprenticeships - apprentices undertake a framework at Level 4 and above which will include a competence based qualification, Functional Skills and in some cases a broader vocationally related qualification which could be a Foundation degree.

Apprenticeship levy

From April 2017 the apprenticeship levy will be introduced and will be a levy on UK employers to fund new apprenticeships. The levy will only be paid on annual pay bills in excess of £3 million. Each employer will receive an allowance of £15,000 to offset against their levy payment.

Once an employer has paid the levy to HRMC they will be able to access funding for apprenticeships through a new digital service account. If an employer doesn't pay the levy they can still employ an apprentice and can choose: the training they would like the apprentice to receive; an approved training provider and an assessment organisation using the registers available.

For more information visit GOV.UK - Apprenticeship funding: how it will work.

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This topic is addressed in Acas Employment Law Update training. View course listings. You may also benefit from viewing our Employment Law Update timetable.