More Apprenticeships on the Way – Know How to Manage Them

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The Government is about to force some employers to invest in apprenticeships – make this work for you.

Employing apprentices can be a useful way for employers to bring new blood into their organisation and train people up their way. The structure of apprenticeships means that the combination of on the job and off the job training can shape the apprentice into someone with both modern knowledge and practical experience that reaps rewards for employers.

Legal changes in recent years have made apprentices a much more attractive option than they used to be for employers in England and Wales. Employers in Scotland are still subject to the less flexible management system for apprentices.

Apprenticeship Levy

The introduction of the apprenticeship levy in April 2016 may force employers to re-think their perspective on apprenticeships. Large companies (with a yearly wage bill of £3 million or more) will be required to pay 0.5% of their wage bill – minus a £15,000 allowance – into a pot each year which they will then be able to draw on to pay for off the job learning for apprentices they employ. Apprenticeships will be the sole use for the funds collected and if an employer does not use his fund, indications are that it will be spread to other employers to use. The Government recently confirmed it would add a further 10% of the employer’s contributions to the pot. This is likely to encourage more employers to take on apprentices and so they should be aware of their management responsibilities.

“…employers in England and Wales are able to discipline and dismiss an apprentice for poor performance; for not attending college; for failing to pass exams….”


Pay

Apprentices must be paid at least £3.30 per hour (to increase to £3.40 in October 2016) if they are under 19 years old. This rate also applies if they are aged 19 or over and in the first year of their apprenticeship. Apprentices aged 19 and over and not in the first year of their apprenticeship are entitled to their age appropriate rate of national minimum wage. This is the case in England, Scotland and Wales.

Contracts

In England and Wales, apprentices must be engaged on an ‘apprenticeship agreement’ containing prescribed pieces of information. In Scotland, ‘contracts of apprenticeship’ still govern the apprentice’s employment. This is an important distinction when it comes to discipline.

Discipline & Dismissal

Apprenticeship agreements give employers the freedom to treat apprentices like ‘normal’ employees when it comes to their behaviour and their ability to do their job. Although it is understood that apprentices are not likely to perform as well as ‘normal’ employees, employers in England and Wales are still able to discipline and dismiss an apprentice for poor performance; for not attending college; for failing to pass exams etc provided the contractual documentation is drafted suitably. The focus is on the employment, not the learning. This flexibility does not exist in contracts of apprenticeship, and therefore employers in Scotland must follow a more complicated and extended disciplinary system. The focus here lies on the learning, not the employment, and therefore much more leniency on the part of the employer is required.

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