Apprentices are not just for Christmas – By Ruth McCann

Apprenticeships enable you to manage talent in your business and effectively bring new and refreshed skills into your business pipeline, as well as a way to invest into your company’s future. To have an apprentice in your workplace there are some key questions to consider:

What is apprentice?

An apprentice is someone who receives on the job training and education and is contracted to stay with your company for a fixed amount of time in order to complete their training.

What do you have to pay an apprentice?

As of October 2015 the apprentice wage rate increased to £3.30 per hour, however this only applies to apprentices under the age of 19 or those who are in the first year of their apprenticeship. After the completing first 12 months of scheme an apprentice who is above 20 years old and is continuing with their apprenticeship should receive the National Minimum Wage based on their age i.e.

19 to 20 years old and second year of employment – £5.30 per hour

21 and over and in second year of employment £6.70 per hour *

* From the 1st February the National Minimum Wage for 25 years old + will be £7.20 per hour

Companies can choose to pay higher than the apprentice wage.

What training does an apprentice have to do?

All apprentices must be working towards a qualification during their employment and there are different levels within apprenticeships;

  • Intermediate – this is equivalent to 5 GCSE passes
  • Advanced – this is equivalent to two A Levels passes
  • Higher – this level can lead to NVQ level four or a foundation degree.

The training will depend on the nature and type of role and managers who are responsible for apprentices should check the effectiveness of the learning with them through regular meetings.

As well as the formal training, you should ensure that any apprentice receives a full induction to the company so they understands the rules and procedures as well as the ethos of the company.

How many hours can an apprentice work?

There are specific guidelines that deem what hours apprentices can work, the apprentice must work a minimum of 30 hours a week but must not exceed 40 hours per week if they are under 18 years old. The apprentice should be paid for all the hours they work including any days that they spend in training and learning which may be off site and more often than not, is one day a week.  If is a person is under the age of 18 they must opt out of the Working Time Directive and must have a 30 minute unpaid break for every 4 hours worked.

All apprentices are entitled to 5.6 weeks holiday which can include bank holidays.

What health & safety measures do we have consider?

Many apprentices, however by no means all often fall into the ‘young worker’ description and so therefore must receive the same level of risk assessment that a normal ‘young worker’ would receive. If your apprentice is employed through the Apprentice Training Agency then it is both the agency and yourself who should effectively control and manage potential risks.

If this is not the case, and no agency is involved in the employment of your apprentice, then you must review your risk assessments and take into account specific factors and risks that may occur with a younger worker; such factors that increase risk may be due to a lack of experience, a lack of maturity or an unfamiliarity of such risks. There are lower risk environments, for workers that perform their duties within an office environment where many of the risks may often be relatively familiar to the younger person, however also higher risk environments, such as construction work, agricultural, and manufacturing environments where this risks may be less obvious to the worker. In this case, although there should already be control measures in place, it is advised that you should monitor and supervise the worker more closely.

Other methods to control risk include: inductions which detail risks as well as an explanation of health and safety processes and policies, greater levels of supervision, site familiarisation and outlines of what provisions of Personal Protective Equipment are provided and required to be used.

Do we have to keep an apprentice on after they have completed their apprenticeship scheme?

The simple answer is no, however if your company has invested the time, money and training in the person and if there are suitable vacancies within your organisation you should look to kept them. If you are not able to offer them any suitable vacancies in your company, you need to confirm in writing that their employment is coming to an end and the date it will finish.

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