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How and why to take on an apprentice

James Watkins - Law on the Web

  1. 15 March 2016
  2. Business
  3. 0 comments
Laying a brick

It’s National Apprenticeship Week, so what better time to consider bringing in a youngster to be an apprentice for your business? 96% of businesses who have hired apprentices say that they benefitted from doing so.

What is an apprenticeship?

An apprenticeship is a form of study that also involves some in-work training. As well as working for you, the apprentice would also require some contact study time at their school/college/university.

Apprentices can study at any level from GCSE up to degree level, with the higher levels naturally being for more advanced qualifications. This gives you some flexibility as to what sort of experience and technical knowledge you will require from your apprentice.

Apprentices don’t have to be of school age. In fact, recent figures have indicated that almost half of the UK’s apprentices are over 25.

Hiring an apprentice is a great way to bring in talented young (or sometimes older) employees and mould them according to your business’s way of working. A good apprentice could eventually become a long-term employee, and an apprenticeship can spare you the cost of having to train them.

Your business may also be entitled to a grant for taking on an apprentice – if your business employs fewer than 50 people, you could be entitled to a grant of £1,500 for an apprentice aged 16-24.

Apprenticeships are available for a variety of different industries, including health and social care, the arts, law enforcement and financial services.


Like all employees, apprentices must be paid a minimum wage – however, the minimum wage for apprentices is lower than the typical minimum wage, and it is currently set at £3.30 per hour.

The apprentice rate for the minimum wage only applies to apprentices who are 16-18 years old, or are still in the first year of their apprenticeship – for an apprentice who is 19 years or over, they must be paid the normal working minimum wage for their age once they have finished the first year of their apprenticeship.

You can read more information about the minimum wage in our employment section.

The kinds of benefits that you should give to an apprentice will depend on what benefits you give to employees in a similar role or grade. For example, if you give sick pay and annual leave to employees at a similar level, you should bestow these benefits on your apprentice too.

Your apprentice must work at least 16 hours each week, and they must work alongside experienced staff, learning job-specific skills. This means that if you have hired an apprentice hairdresser, they shouldn’t be spending their entire time at work making coffee.

How do I get started?

You can start by having a look at the apprenticeships framework, which you can access here. Here you can find more information about what apprenticeships are available for your industry.

Next, you will need to contact the National Apprenticeship Service to register your interest in employing an apprentice. You can use this form, or telephone them on 08000 150 600. You can also find out whether your business is eligible for a grant for taking on an apprentice.

This service is only for employers in England, but there are different services for the rest of the UK.

You can use these tools to find a training organisation (such as a local college or university) to train your apprentice. The training organisation will advertise your apprenticeship.

Once you have some candidates, you can interview them as you would for any other position.

Once you have chosen your apprentice, you will both need to sign an Apprenticeship Agreement. You can download a template for this from the government’s website.

Temporary apprenticeships

Taking on an apprentice is a significant commitment – if the company needs to make redundancies, it is not easy to lay off an apprentice, even if work dries up or the company is going through financial difficulties.

If you still want to take on an apprentice but don’t want to commit the business to having one long term, you can take on an apprentice through an apprentice training agency.

In this arrangement, the apprentice will work for the agency, and you will pay the agency a fee to have the apprentice work for you.

This means that you will pay a bit more than if you were employing the apprentice directly – however, if you need to let the apprentice go, the agency will find somewhere else for them to work.

If this sounds like a better arrangement for your business, you can discuss it with the National Apprenticeship Service.

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