Top things to consider when employing an apprentice

This only serves to highlight the fact that apprenticeships are becoming an increasingly popular career route for school leavers over the past few years.

In an increasingly competitive labour market, apprenticeships play a vital role in equipping young people with the skills they need to succeed in the labour market, helping them get their foot on that all important first rung of the career ladder.

What’s more their popularity looks only set to continue with the school leavers now having to remain in education or training until 18.

Employing an apprentice can be a great way of boosting your business; 96% of employers who take on an apprentice report benefits to their business whilst 72% report improved productivity as a direct result of employing an apprentice.

However like any other employee there are some important things to be clear on when taking on apprentice.

Key things tips to consider when you are considering taking on an apprentice include:

Be clear on pay and hours

An apprentice will normally work a minimum of 30 hours per week and should receive a minimum wage that is determined by their age and programme.

If you take on an apprentice as an employer you must ensure you have an apprenticeship contract drawn up and signed by both parties. Otherwise you will be legally obliged to pay the national minimum wage rate, rather than the £2.68 an hour 2013/14 apprenticeship rate.

As with other members of staff failure to pay the correct minimum wage could result in a fine of £20,000 and being publicly named and shamed.

Details on wage rates for apprentices can be found on the National Apprenticeship Service website.

Be clear on your obligations

It is important to realise that once to choose to take on an apprentice you are committed to provide them with employment for as long as it takes to complete their programme or a minimum of 12 months, whichever is greater, subject to satisfactory performance.

You can only terminate an apprenticeship early in very rare cases and not simply because you are unhappy with their performance. Also, you cannot make an apprentice redundant unless the workplace is closing. If an apprentice has their contract terminated unfairly, they can receive significantly higher than normal damages for wrongful dismissal to compensate them for loss of wages, loss of training and loss of status. If they have the required qualifying service, they can also claim compensation for unfair dismissal.

As with other employees, apprentices must receive a minimum 20 days holiday per year plus bank holidays.

If in doubt get advice

As with all employment matters it is important to seek advice if needs be. The Forum’s business advice team can provide advice on all employment related issues including apprenticeships. For further information visit www.fpb.org

Image: Apprentice via Shutterstock

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