What are the legal obligations of taking on an Apprentice?
Nov 2, 2017
There is nothing new about the idea of taking on an inexperienced person to teach them a trade or a skill. Employers have been doing this for many years. And the benefits extend beyond the individual, to the business and to wider society.
But apprenticeships are not without their potential pitfalls for organisations. The most significant of these is a failure to recognise the required formalities of the arrangement, and the legal protections afforded to apprentices.
While apprentices tend to be relatively young (apprenticeships are available to people aged 16 and over), they are still entitled to minimum levels of pay and to not be required to work longer or different types of hours than the Working Time Regulations prescribe. Eligible apprentices should get statutory maternity, paternity, and adoption pay, as well as shared parental pay and sick pay. And employers have additional health and safety obligations when it comes to workers who are under the age of 18, specifically in relation to risk assessments; apprentices may be more likely than more experienced workers to be unfamiliar with the workplace, with equipment, and with the hazards posed.
But while age and inexperience should definitely be on employers’ minds, it’s important to avoid discriminating against an apprentice because they are young (or because of any other protected characteristic such as race, sex or disability). A business that unlawfully discriminates will fall foul of the Equality Act, and could well face having to pay compensation. Similarly, if an organisation gets some aspect of termination wrong – for example, bringing a fixed term apprenticeship to an end when it shouldn’t, or dismissing an apprentice without taking all the necessary steps – a tribunal claim could well be on the cards.
As with much of this, the rules vary according to the type of apprenticeship that is in place. So the first step for any organisation with apprenticeship on its mind should be to look into the options and into the commercial viability. You should investigate the funding that might be available to you. And if you decide that an apprenticeship is right for your business, put in place a solid framework, internal systems, and legal protections that give it the best chance of success.
Please contact our Litigation team to discuss any employment questions you may have. Call us on 01264 353411, email: firstname.lastname@example.org or fill in our no obligation online enquiry form and we will be in touch shortly.
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