Could the Government’s Apprentice Scheme Benefit Your Practice?

We recently added a new Apprentice Agreement template to the FPM Policies and Procedures Library, so this seems like a great time to go back and address the basics of employing an apprentice at your practice – including how to maximise the benefits and minimise the risks. 

The Scheme

The Government has committed to creating three million new apprenticeships by 2020 in a bid to address the UK's productivity levels and skills shortages. The biggest impact of this on employers is the introduction of the apprenticeship levy, which all employers with a pay bill of over £3 million must pay from 6 April 2017. Employers whose pay bill is less than £3 million are able to claim levy funding. You can employ an apprentice of any age, from school leavers to older workers, and even use it as a way to upskill your existing employees.

Apprentices have the same statutory rights as other employees (excluding the Fixed-Term Employees Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment Regulations 2002). They are entitled to the usual statutory rights in relation to:

  • Working time
  • Maternity, paternity, adoption and shared parental leave and pay
  • Discrimination
  • Whistleblowing
  • Unfair dismissal

You must pay apprentices at least the national minimum wage rate for their age if they are aged 19 or over and have completed the first year of their apprenticeship. These rates, from 1 April 2017, are £5.60 for workers aged 18 to 20; £7.05 for those aged 21 to 24; and £7.50 for those aged 25 and over. There is a separate apprenticeship rate of £3.50 for apprentices who are aged under 19, or those who are 19 or over and in the first year of the apprenticeship.

Recruitment and Selection

As the entry requirements for most apprenticeships do not include any prior experience or knowledge of the subject, it’s good practice to use selection criteria that assess candidates' potential. Alternatively, older workers may be applying for the apprenticeship because their skills are very different and they want to broaden them.

Consider a strengths-based recruitment process, placing a focus on identifying what the potential recruits enjoy or are enthused by, rather than looking solely at their previous experience. This is something with which a training provider may be able to assist with.

The Agreement

Apprenticeship agreements (i.e. the agreement between the employer and the apprentice) must satisfy certain conditions contained in the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009 and differ from a traditional contract of apprenticeship, which would give him or her enhanced rights. In particular, it can be difficult, and potentially expensive, to dismiss an apprentice employed under a traditional contract of apprenticeship, even in cases of misconduct. This is because the employer may be liable to pay the apprentice in respect of the outstanding duration of the apprenticeship term, plus a sum to compensate him or her for future loss of earnings. Apprenticeship agreements and a good partnership with the training provider allow the apprentice to move between organisations whilst continuing with their qualifications.

An apprenticeship will be for a fixed term, so the agreement should include appropriate provisions relating to the fixed term and its expiry – this includes a clause allowing for early termination. Our template details all of the information you need to include.

Managing Any Issues

Employers should generally treat performance and conduct issues relating to apprentices in the same way as for other employees. Apprentices have the same unfair dismissal rights as other employees, subject to attaining two years' service, and therefore have the same rights to have any disciplinary issues dealt with in accordance with a fair procedure.

A tribunal might expect an employer to go further in terms of offering support, guidance and time to improve for a younger and less experienced apprentice than for other employees. In practice, in relation to a younger apprentice, it is common for the apprentice's parents to seek to become involved in a serious misconduct or performance process. As a matter of good practice, the employer should consider allowing this in order to demonstrate that it is acting fairly and reasonably.

Let us know your apprentice success stories!

FPM members can visit the Policies and Procedures Library to access our brand new Apprentice Agreement template, alongside hundreds of other invaluable draft documents.


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Closing Date: 29 February 2020

Salary: Up to 45k pa (pro rata- depending of experience)

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Closing Date: 2 January 2020

Salary: In the range of £30,000 p/a depending upon experience

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