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Your rights as an apprentice

An apprenticeship is a form of contract of employment, which has the purpose of training an individual in the necessary skills for a role or attaining a relevant qualification. In recent years, “modern apprenticeships” have become more popular and involve three parties: the worker; the employer; and a third party (generally the government) providing training for a recognised qualification. 

If you are currently employed as an apprentice or have recently been dismissed from an apprenticeship scheme and have concerns that your rights may have been breached speak to our specialists who will be happy to discuss your case with you. We appreciate that this is often a difficult time and we offer a range of funding options to assist you including fixed price advice from £300 plus VAT. For more information call our employment law experts on 01616 966 229 or complete our online enquiry form.


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Apprentice rights at work

Apprentices are usually classed as employees, so they are entitled to the same conditions as other employees including:

  • Paid holidays
  • The national living wage for apprentices or national minimum wage
  • Sick pay, if applicable
  • Rest breaks
  • An employment contract
  • All necessary training
  • Health and safety protection

Apprentices also have additional rights in respect of being paid for time spent training or studying for their apprenticeship, which must make up at least 20% of their working hours.  

How is an apprentice different to a regular employee?

An apprentice will typically be an employee. They will therefore benefit from all related rights, such as the right to claim unfair dismissal (subject to them being employed for at least 2 years) and protection against discrimination.

However, an employer has increased responsibilities towards an apprentice, as outlined in more detail below. Additionally, while the primary purpose of a regular employee is to undertake work for the employer, the focus for an apprentice is more on the facilitation of training and undertaking work that may enhance this process.

Types of apprenticeship

There are two different types of apprenticeship: contracts of apprenticeship and apprenticeship agreements.

Contracts of apprenticeship are generally for a fixed term and cannot be terminated early except for in cases of extreme misconduct. They can be created orally and even without the use of terminology such as ‘apprentice’ or ‘apprenticeship’. The defining feature is that training is the main purpose of the arrangement.

Apprenticeship agreements must comply with an ‘apprenticeship framework’ published by the Government and incorporate a training element, generally through an external training provider. Government funding is available to cover part of the cost of this training and, unlike contracts of apprenticeship, an apprentice can be dismissed in the same way as any other employee. There are certain conditions which must be met for an arrangement to constitute an apprenticeship agreement:

  • The apprentice must be required to work for the employer
  • It must contain certain basic information regarding the terms of employment i.e. start date (and end date if for a fixed term), rate of pay and hours of work
  • Be in writing
  • State that it is governed by the Law of England and Wales
  • State the skill, trade or occupation for which the apprentice is being trained; and
  • State that it is entered into in connection with a qualifying apprenticeship framework

Under what circumstances can an apprentice be dismissed?

Those under a contract of apprenticeship can only be dismissed in the most serious of conduct cases. The issue is, in essence, whether the conduct of the apprentice is such that it renders them impossible to teach. This could be by way of repeated wilful disobedience of direct instructions and/or a habitual neglect of specific duties. This is narrower than the grounds for gross misconduct as applied to ordinary employees.

For those apprentices employed under an apprenticeship agreement, they can be dismissed in the same way as any other employee i.e. misconduct, capability/performance.

How much should an apprentice be paid?

Under the current 2016/17 rates, an apprentice should be paid a minimum of £3.50 per hour if they are under 19 years old, or in the first year of their apprenticeship. If they are not in this category, they should be paid the relevant national minimum wage rate for their age.

Clearly, it is at the employer’s discretion if they wish to pay their apprentices more than this.

Are apprentices entitled to sick pay?

Yes, in most instances. It is only where an apprenticeship is for less than three months that they would not be entitled to statutory sick pay.

However, an employer is able to pay enhanced sick pay at their discretion.

Are apprentices entitled to holidays and rest breaks?

Yes. Apprentices come under the Working Time Regulations 1998 and are therefore subject to the same minimum entitlements as other employees.

Although many apprentices attend training courses, meaning that they are only working for the employer for part of the week, they should be considered full-time employees for the purposes of Working Time Regulations, unless their entire apprenticeship obligations are genuinely part time.

If you are currently employed as an apprentice or have recently been dismissed from an apprenticeship scheme and have concerns that your rights may have been breached speak to our specialists who will be happy to discuss your case with you. Call our experts on 01616 966 229 or complete our online enquiry form.

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