An apprentice’s employment rights


This year’s National Apprenticeship Week runs from 14 to 18 March 2016 and is co-ordinated by the National Apprenticeship Service. The aim of the week is to celebrate the positive impact apprenticeships have had on individuals and organisation, as well as share relevant information with employers and prospective apprentices.

National Apprenticeship schemes are becoming ever more important for many companies as a means to identifying and training their future workforce. Apprenticeships are not suitable for all businesses or roles, however there is an ever increasing number of Apprenticeship Standards that employers can consider as a means of developing the skills needed in the coming years given that the economy now appears to be heading in the right direction.

Employer Considerations

In most instances, the apprentice would work around 30 hours per week, with additional time spent on obtaining a recognised qualification. The apprentice should receive a minimum wage that is determined by their age. The current rate for apprentices under 19 years of age and those aged 19 or over who are in their first year of apprenticeship is currently £3.30. All other apprentices are entitled to the National Minimum Wage specified for their age and in-line with the National Minimum Wage rates.

If employers are considering taking on an apprentice, it is important to ensure that there is a suitable apprenticeship contract in place, which meets the legal requirements. Failure to do this could mean that the employment status is not considered as being that of an apprentice and the employer would be required pay the national minimum wage rates. Employers need to be aware that failure to pay the correct minimum wage could result in a fine of up to £20,000, as well as having to pay the difference in unpaid wages. This should be incentive enough to ensure that the correct contracts are put in place.

An employer, once they have chosen to take on an apprentice, is committed to provide the apprentice with employment for as long as it takes to complete the apprenticeship programme, or for a minimum period of 12 months, whichever is greater, and subject to performance and qualifications being obtained. Employers can only end the apprenticeship early in very rare cases and not simply because you are unhappy with their performance.

As with any employment issues, it is important to seek advice before you make the next step. Not doing so could prove costly in the long run.