Last updated: 15.01.18

Understanding the rules when hiring an apprentice

Making yourself aware of the rules surrounding apprenticeships should be considered an essential part of ensuring your company is fulfilling all of its responsibilities to its apprentices.

With recent government initiatives helping to draw increased attention to the value of apprenticeships, many businesses across the country are currently looking to invest in apprentices for the first time.

Hiring apprentices can potentially be a hugely beneficial step for any organisation, giving the opportunity to cultivate new talent and develop them into skilled workers who can deliver value for many years to come. However, apprenticeships also come with a large degree of responsibility, with numerous rules in place to ensure that businesses and apprentices alike are able to get full value out of the arrangement.

As such, any company looking to take on apprentices should endeavour to learn all they can about the rules governing this type of hiring, and make sure they are in full compliance. This way, they can ensure a long, successful and mutually beneficial relationship with their young workers.

The basics

On a basic level, hiring an apprentice involves handing a new or current employee aged 16 or over an opportunity to combine work with training and study. This allows them to develop the skills they need to excel in a given role by learning from qualified mentors and gaining first-hand experience.

Apprenticeships must last for at least a year, and can last up to five years, depending on the level at which the apprentice is studying. The worker must receive the minimum wage or greater, so any company that may be concerned about the potential cost burden should look into whether they might be eligible for government funding to cover some of the cost of training and assessing an apprentice during this time.

The overall process involves choosing an appropriate apprenticeship framework or standard for your industry, before selecting a partner that offers training for the chosen scheme. At this point, companies can check what funding is available, before working with their training organisation to advertise the apprenticeship.

Once a candidate has been chosen, it'll be necessary to sign an agreement laying out the terms and conditions of employment, the training on offer and the qualifications they will be working towards, as well as a commitment statement that details the planned training schedule and the expectations that each party has of each other.

Pay and conditions

Although apprenticeships differ from conventional employment in numerous ways, what remains the same is the legal responsibilities that employers owe these members of staff in terms of fair, legal working conditions and pay policies.

In addition to paying apprentices at a minimum wage level that corresponds to their age, your company is legally required to provide equivalent conditions to other employees working at similar grades or in similar roles, including paid holidays, sickness pay, benefits such as childcare voucher schemes, and coaching or mentoring support. It will also be necessary to pay apprentices for time spent training or studying for their apprenticeship, whether this takes place at work or at a college or training organisation.

Additionally, it should be borne in mind that apprentices have the same employment rights when it comes to redundancy as any other member of staff, meaning legal advice may be necessary if the apprenticeship needs to be ended early for some reason.

Rules for funding

One of the most recent government initiatives launched to aid companies with the hiring of apprentices was the introduction of the apprenticeship levy, a new tax on larger organisations designed to subsidise the cost of apprenticeships for businesses across the country.

Companies with annual pay bills exceeding £3 million are asked to contribute to the levy, in exchange for funds to spend on training and assessing apprentices, with the government adding ten per cent. Those that do not pay the levy stand to benefit even more, as they will only need to pay ten per cent towards the cost of training, with the remaining 90 per cent to be paid by the government directly to the training organisation, up to the funding band maximum.

Firms could also be eligible for extra funding depending on their and the apprentice's circumstances, so it's worth investigating further to determine exactly what your organisation might be entitled to.

Training responsibilities

When considering the rules surrounding apprenticeships, one of the most important factors to assess is how your organisation will be handling the training component of the placement, as this is the most notable element differentiating apprenticeships from standard employment.

Under government rules, the training programme of an apprenticeship needs to last for at least 12 months; moreover, to be eligible for apprenticeship levy funding, companies need to be able to demonstrate that at least 20 per cent of the apprentice's time is taken up by off-the-job training, which should be directly relevant to the apprenticeship framework or standard.

Businesses and their apprentices can make sure the right expectations have been set in this respect when drawing up a commitment statement that reflects the needs of all relevant parties. By doing so, your organisation can take a significant step towards a long and mutually beneficial relationship with your new apprentices.

Virtual College Apprenticeship programme

Virtual College have chosen a blended delivery model for the Digital Marketer Apprenticeship programmes we deliver, meaning that our apprentices benefit from a range of online live learning sessions, teamed with face to face support sessions that are all complimented by our bespoke LMS System Enable which includes additional bite-size learning aids. Enable also allows employers quick and easy access to see that their apprentices have reached competency and retained knowledge. They receive regular updates on learner progress to confirm that goals are being met and we use their feedback to continuously improve their training and its effectiveness. This allows us to offer our employers and apprentices a truly personalized apprenticeship experience.

If you would like to find out more about our Digital Marketer Apprenticeships, please get in touch here, we can:

  • Help you understand the funding available
  • Help you recruit an apprentice
  • Help you upskill existing staff

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