"You're Hired!" How to employ apprentices

Kate Palmer - Associate Director of HR Advisory & Consultancy

February 21 2017

The tenth annual National Apprenticeship Week will be underway 6th-10th March. With the government targeting 3 million apprentices in the workforce by 2020, here’s what you need to know… What documentation do apprentices get? Apprentices don’t work under standard contracts of employment, and the type of documentation they have depends on where the employment is. If you’re in Scotland, use a contract of apprenticeship. If you’re in England or Wales, use an apprenticeship agreement. How much should you pay apprentices? A National Minimum Wage (NMW) band applies to apprentices aged either under 19 or 19 and over and in the first year of their apprenticeship. The current rate is £3.40 per hour, increasing to £3.50 per hour from 1st April 2017. Apprentices aged over 19 in the second year of their apprenticeship must get the NMW for their age. You can pay your apprentices more than minimum wage, but you can’t pay less. Who funds apprenticeships? The government or local council funds part of the training paid directly to your business. In some cases, you can get government grants. The grants are available to smaller firms; where the apprentice is younger; for apprentices formerly in care, or apprentices on an Education and Health Care plan. What is the apprenticeship levy? On 6th April 2017, it becomes law for larger employers with an annual pay bill of more than £3 million to pay the apprenticeship levy. Employers will pay 0.5% of their annual pay bill into a digital apprenticeship account in twelve monthly instalments (minus a £15,000 annual government allowance). Employers have up to two years to invest the funds into apprenticeship training and assessments. Can employers dismiss apprentices the same as other staff? It depends on the apprentice’s documentation. If it’s the English and Welsh apprenticeship agreement, the focus of the role is the job itself, meaning you treat your apprentice like any employee. With Scotland’s contract of apprenticeship, the focus is on learning. As an employer, you’re expected to give apprentices extra support and training to bring them up to scratch. Employers who go ahead and dismiss apprentices on a contract of apprenticeship face paying out large damages at a tribunal to cover the rest of the contract as well as future losses.

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