What are the benefits of apprenticeships to employers?

92% of companies that have taken on apprentices believe this leads to a more motivated and satisfied workforce and 86% of employers said apprenticeships helped them develop skills relevant to their organisation.

Some of the benefits of recruiting an apprentice include:

  • adapting their training according to the needs of your business
  • their motivation to learn new skills
  • you can expand and upskill your workforce

Apprenticeships are in-work training programmes offered by employers under which the apprentice engages in on- and off-the-job learning and development activities that will lead to a work-based qualification. Apprentices must spend at least 6 hours per week on off- the-job training.

An apprenticeship must last for at least 12 months, but many will take longer to complete, depending on the nature of the qualification. The usual duration is between one and four years. The minimum duration of 12 months relates to the “practical period” of work and training (not including the end-point assessment) and is based on the apprentice working at least 30 hours per week (including off-the-job training). Apprenticeships can be undertaken on a part-time basis.

Employers must use an approved apprenticeship standard which sets out the knowledge, skills and behaviour required to carry out a particular occupation.

Once you have decided that you would like to take on an apprentice you will need to choose an apprenticeship training course, find a training provider and select an end point assessment organisation. End point assessments evaluate whether the apprentice has met the required apprenticeship standard.

Apprenticeship Agreement

You must provide an apprenticeship agreement to your apprentice. This will include details of:

  • the skill, trade or occupation the apprentice is being trained for
  • the name of the apprenticeship they’re working towards
  • the start and end dates for the apprenticeship
  • the amount of training you’ll give them

In addition, you will need to provide a training plan which must be approved by the training provider and signed by the three parties involved.

Statutory Rights of Apprentices

Apprentices have the same statutory rights as other employees, for example: working time; family leave and pay; discrimination; whistleblowing; and unfair dismissal.

You must pay apprentices the National Minimum Rate in force at the time. You can find information about the National Minimum Wage and Living Wage on the back cover of this newsletter. One the apprentice has been with you and on the scheme for a year, you must pay them at least the National Minimum Wage based on their age, regardless of the fact that they are still an apprentice.

Managing Apprentices

Performance and conduct issues relating to apprentices should be dealt in the same way as for other employees. Apprentices have the same unfair dismissal rights as other employees, subject to two years’ service, and therefore have the same rights to have any disciplinary issues dealt with in accordance with a fair procedure. However, please bear in mind that as an apprentice, a tribunal might expect an employer to go further in terms of offering support, guidance and time to improve.

You should refer to your policies to ensure the correct procedures are being followed.

Termination of Apprenticeships

Although apprenticeship agreements are for a fixed term, you need to ensure that the agreement contains provisions which allow you to terminate the agreement earlier, either by giving notice or with immediate effect in the case of gross misconduct. As long as the apprenticeship is employed under a valid Apprenticeship Agreement you will be able to dismiss them for conduct or performance prior to the expiry of the fixed term. However, if there is no clause allowing early termination, you could be liable for a breach of contract and may have to pay them an amount equivalent to the balance of their salary due if they completed their fixed term contract.

There is no legal obligation on the employer to offer the apprentice the job at the end of the fixed term. However, it is good practice to look for opportunities within the organisation and, if there is nothing available, help the apprentice to identify suitable opportunities elsewhere.

In addition, in a reorganisation or redundancy situation, employers should treat apprentices in the same way they treat other employees. Apprentices who have two years qualifying service will have the right to claim unfair dismissal and will therefore be entitled to a statutory redundancy payment.

Apprenticeships can increase productivity as they are designed by employers so they reflect the relevant knowledge, skills and behaviours that the business needs. They provide you with the skilled workers your business will need for the future.