POSTED: June 19 2024
Apprentices: An HR Perspective
What you need to know

Apprentices: An HR Perspective

With apprenticeships becoming an election issue we have two articles this week, both from an HR and a Payroll perspective. The first article from advo HR Consultant, Sam Brown, who outlines what employers need to know about apprenticeships and how this can be an ideal way of introducing new talent into an organisation.


As we approach the summer months, as students are taking their exams and may still be considering their future employment, it is a great time for employers to be thinking about offering apprenticeships.

Apprenticeships are a great way for employers to grow their own talent. These schemes are open to everybody and provide an excellent route for young people to enter work, allowing them to train on the job and get a nationally recognised qualification, gained at the same time as they work for you.  Any business can be involved in an apprenticeship scheme as long as they are HMRC registered, and apprenticeships are now available to cover a huge range of occupations and sectors.

Typically, apprenticeships will be for a minimum of 30 hours a week and can be up to 40 hours a week and this includes the time spent away from work at college or in training. Part-time apprenticeships can also be agreed, at a minimum of 16 hours per week. They last a minimum of one year and can be up to five years.

If you don’t wish to take on the responsibility of hiring an apprentice, employers also have the option of partnering with an Apprenticeship Training Agency (ATA) who hires the apprentice on your behalf.

Cost wise, the hiring of an apprentice is much more obtainable now, due to what’s known as the “Apprenticeship levy.” All employers paying a wage bill of more than £3 million per year are required to pay 0.5% of their payroll each month as a levy tax. This can then be reinvested back into your workforce in the form of apprenticeship training minus an annual “levy allowance” of £15,000. Smaller organisations with an annual payroll bill of less than £3 million per year only need to contribute 5% towards the cost of the apprenticeship for employees aged 22 + and the government will cover the rest.

As with any recruitment process, employers must ensure that they provide fair access to the apprenticeship schemes and widen the talent pool from which employers recruit in terms of gender, ethnicity and diversity.

If you decide to use the apprentice route then it’s worth noting that apprentices are employees and they have the same employment rights, and you owe them the same legal responsibilities in relation to pay, benefits, rest breaks and time off work.

Apprentices are entitled to paid holidays and rest breaks, as well as sick pay and any other benefits you provide to your employees. For a young worker, i.e. a 16- or 17-year-old apprentice, they must have a thirty minute break after they have completed four hours work, twelve hours of rest between shifts and two days of rest per week.

Apprentices are entitled to the apprentice rate in the first year of their apprenticeship (rates outlined below).

If you engage an apprentice, it is very important that an Apprentice Agreement is carefully drafted. An Apprentice Agreement is recommended as it is much more difficult for an employer to dismiss an apprentice employed under a Contract of of Apprenticeship than it is under an Apprenticeship Agreement.

There is certain information that needs to be included for it to be a valid Apprenticeship Agreement, which goes over and above what is required in a normal contract of employment. If this is not included, there is the risk of the apprentice being found to be on a Contract of Apprenticeship and therefore being in the position to bring a claim for loss of earnings should they be dismissed.

This is where advo can help as we can draft this document for employers to ensure that all salient information is included.

Normally, advo will advise employers to hire the apprentice on a fixed-term basis. It is worth noting that the non-renewal of a fixed-term contract is considered a dismissal and there are steps that must be followed.

Whilst it is always hoped that any apprenticeship will be successful, they are times when things don’t work out and it is sometimes necessary to dismiss apprentices.

In these circumstances, employers must ensure that they act within the boundaries of the law in order to avoid a potentially expensive employment tribunal.

It is worth remembering that any employment tribunal will take the view that this may be the apprentices first job and the employer’s responsibility is to train and encourage. If the apprentice is not meeting the standards required, the employer must therefore be able to show tangible evidence that that the apprentice has received training, feedback, they have been given several opportunities to improve and the consequences has been clearly explained before taking any action.

Please be aware that employers do not have a legal obligation to find work for an apprentice at the end of their apprenticeship but hopefully it will lead to a career path for them in your organisation.

For further information on the hiring of apprentices, please contact advo HR.

Sam Brown, HR Consultant