This week the Chancellor announced an extension to the Kickstart Scheme. This scheme, together with Apprenticeships, form part of ‘a range of government programmes, some of which offer financial incentives, are available for employers who are considering hiring employees, offering work experience or upskilling existing staff’ (GOV.UK)
In this article we set out what apprenticeships and Kickstart schemes are about and what you need to know from a HR and employment law perspective.
What is an Apprenticeship?
Apprenticeships are programmes which offer someone the opportunity to train ‘on the job’ for a recognised qualification whilst also attending college or university. They are available to school leavers through to master’s degree level and span a wide range of industries from construction through to accounting and finance.
Forget the infamous BBC programme which suggests an apprentice can be dispensed with at will, the first thing to note is that an apprentice is an employee, and they have the same rights and entitlements as any other employee. However, with an apprenticeship, your level of responsibility is greater.
An apprentice has an employment contract but usually they are appointed under an apprenticeship agreement, usually with an external training provider and the apprenticeship they are studying towards is part of an apprenticeship framework.
As part of that agreement, the employer undertakes to play a vital role in not only training the apprentice but educating them in the world of work.
What is the apprenticeship rate?
The minimum wage rate of an apprentice is currently (2021) £4.30 per hour.
This rate is applicable for apprentices under the age of 19 or someone over 19 but in their first year of their apprenticeship.
If you are paying the apprentice rate, you must ensure that you only do so for a genuine apprenticeship- simply giving someone the title of ‘apprentice’ will not be enough and you run the risk of breaching minimum wage legislation.
Please note, most apprentices tend to be young people and if they are under the age of 18 there are strict rules to adhere to regarding the number of hours they can work.
Someone aged under 18 cannot work for more than 8 hours per day or 40 hours per week. They are also entitled to a 30 minute break if they work more than 4.5 hours, and they must have daily rest of 12 hours.
Do you have to continue to employ someone after the end of their apprenticeship?
A lot of employers keep their apprentices after they have finished their apprenticeship, and this is one of the main benefits of taking on an apprentice. As to whether you must keep them on will depend on the contract. Usually, the contract will state that there is no guarantee of employment beyond the end of the apprenticeship.
Be aware though, that whilst the end of an apprenticeship is a valid reason to terminate the employment, some apprenticeships span over two years. This means that you will face the risk of an unfair dismissal claim if you do not carry out a fair procedure prior to terminating the employment of an apprenticeship at the end of their apprenticeship.
Of course, we would recommend that a fair procedure is carried out before the termination of any contract, but this is especially important after the employee has completed two years’ service.
What if the apprentice is completely useless?
You need to bear in mind that whilst there are some hard working and committed apprentices, there will be some who seem to be the complete opposite (which is the same that could be said for any employee of course).
Apprentices are not supposed to know the job inside out, they are there to learn and it’s your job to teach them. That doesn’t mean they are able to run amok without any regard for your rules and procedures, but you must be prepared to put the time in with an apprentice.
If you do need to remove an apprentice, for example they have committed an act of gross misconduct, they have failed their apprenticeship by being kicked off their course and so on- then you will need to discuss this with us but letting them go because they’re ‘not up to the job’ could be problematic.
For more information, please visit apprenticeships.gov.uk
What is Kickstart?
The Kickstart Scheme has recently been extended through to March 2022, but the scheme will close to new applicants on 17th December 2021.
The scheme subsidises job placements for 16-24 year olds who are receiving Universal Credit. The scheme covers the full cost of the minimum wage requirements for the young person for 25 hours per week for a total of 6 months. Pension and NI contributions will be covered.
You do not have to start the young person’s placement immediately, if their placement commences on or before 31st March 2022, you will receive funding for the placement up to 30th September 2022.
Finding for start-up costs, including the setting up of IT equipment and training is also available but the employer must be able to demonstrate that the funding is to be used solely for this purpose.
The scheme is for new positions. You will not be able to use the scheme for existing vacancies, nor must your use of the scheme reduce the hours or result in the loss of employment for existing staff.
Are those taken on under Kickstart classed as employees?
Yes, just because you will receive funding for their wages, they are still employed by you. This means that they should have a fixed-term contract from day one, they are protected from discrimination and will be entitled to paid annual leave.
What are the benefits of Kickstart and where can I source further information?
The most obvious benefit of this scheme to employers is the wage subsidy. It also aims to get young people into employment whilst receiving vital work experience and the opportunity to enhance their skills. Whilst you do not have to guarantee employment after the placement, they may prove to be an invaluable asset to your company.
30 placements will need to be offered which is of course not feasible for smaller businesses, however smaller businesses can partner with other companies as part of their application.
More information on applying for the scheme is available from the support for business and self-employed people during coronavirus section of the government website.
And finally…. Always seek advice from us before taking any action to terminate an apprenticeship or someone on a kickstart scheme.