CW Writes: I have heard that changes will be made to National Insurance contributions for employers who employ apprentices under the age of 25? What exactly are these changes and how can I ensure that I comply with these?

The Government is keen for more employers to take on apprentices and is therefore working hard to make the proposition more attractive. One of these measures taken is the abolition of secondary class 1 national insurance contributions for apprentices under the age of 25 which will come into effect on 6th April 2016.

First announced in the Government’s Autumn Statement in 2014, the change will affect any employer who already employs apprentices of that age group, as well as any that are taken on in the future. It builds on a previous announcement that from April 2015 employers are exempt from paying employer National Insurance Contributions on all earnings up to the Upper Earnings Limit (currently £815 per week) paid to employees under the age of 21.

Employers will need to amend your pay systems in order to take advantage of the abolition in relation to apprentices aged between 21 and 24 and it is expected that around 180,000 employers in the UK will be affected by this. Your systems should already hold the age of your employee so that you can ensure compliance with other legal requirement relating to age, for example, the national minimum wage.

The Government intends to create 3 million more apprenticeship spaces by 2020 and this will be partially funded by the apprenticeship levy to be introduced in April 2017. Companies with an annual wage bill of £3 million or more will be required to pay a levy in the amount of 0.5% of their wage bill into a digital account. These funds can then be drawn on to pay for the off the job training of apprentices they take on. The levy will need to be paid regardless of whether the employer currently has any apprentices or whether it intends to take any on in the future.

It was announced this week in the Summer Budget that, in addition to the £15,000 allowance to be applied to the levy amount, that employer’s contributions to the digital account will be boosted by an extra 10% funded by the Government that can be spent on apprenticeship costs.