Apprenticeships are an effective way to get new talent into your business, or to upskill an existing employee. With apprentices helping 74% of employers improve the quality of their service or product (according to the Apprenticeships service), plus the extra government support in place to support businesses hiring apprentices during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, there’s no better time to get involved.
As part of National Apprenticeship Week 2021 (8th – 14th February 2021), we’ve put together a guide to 15 frequently asked questions for employers, below. If you’re looking to become an apprentice, check out Rated People’s guide to apprenticeships for applicants instead.
- How do apprenticeships work?
- What are the benefits of having an apprentice?
- What are the employer costs of having an apprentice?
- Are apprentices permanent employees?
- What employment rights does an apprentice have?
- Can I offer a part-time apprenticeship?
- Could I extend an apprenticeships if needed?
- Can an apprentice be put on furlough or made redundant?
- Who pays an apprentice’s wages?
- What apprenticeship employer grants are available?
- How do I hire an apprentice?
- Are there any specific requirements or qualifications that an applicant needs to have before becoming an apprentice?
- Apprenticeship framework – When were apprenticeship standards introduced?
- What are employer-led apprenticeship standards?
- What coronavirus (or COVID-19) employer incentives are available for apprenticeships?
How do apprenticeships work?
An apprenticeship is a one to five-year programme, depending on its level. The apprentice will have a contract of employment with the company they’re doing their apprenticeship with. 80% of the apprentice’s time is spent working, whilst the other 20% is spent studying for a formal qualification at a college or training centre.
All apprenticeships offer a nationally recognised qualification, regardless of their level. The apprenticeship levels are:
- Intermediate apprenticeship (Level 2) – the qualification they’ll get is equivalent to five GCSE passes at grades 9-4 or A*-C.
- Advanced apprenticeship (Level 3) – the qualification they’ll get is equivalent to two A-Level passes, a Level 3 diploma or the International Baccalaureate.
- Higher apprenticeship (Levels 4-7) – the qualification they’ll get is equivalent to the first stages of higher education, e.g. a foundation degree.
- Degree apprenticeship (Levels 6 and 7) – the qualification they’ll get is equivalent to a bachelor’s or master’s degree.
What are the benefits of having an apprentice?
1. Get new skills into your workforce
As the employer, you get to choose the specific type of apprenticeship that your business offers. So, it’s a great opportunity to have an employee trained in the right kind of skills that your business needs to succeed moving forward.
2. Improve your staff retention
An apprentice follows a direct route of training. Therefore, they’ll know what their next step is within your business. This means they’re less likely to leave for another opportunity with another business.
3. Support your local community
According to a study into apprenticeships by The Open University, a whopping 91% of UK businesses struggle to find employees with the right skillset. You can help support people in your local area with gaining skills and finding work, by equipping them with the expert training and knowledge that you’ve already got.
What are the employer costs of having an apprentice?
- National Minimum Wage: You’ll need to pay all your apprentices at least the National Minimum Wage, depending on their age. Find out more in the ‘Who pays an apprentice’s wages?’ section of this guide.
- 5% of the apprentice’s training and assessment costs: Read more about this in the ‘How do I hire an apprentice?’ section of this guide.
Are apprentices permanent employees?
No. Once the apprenticeship is over, it’s up to you and the apprentice to discuss whether you’ll continue or end their employment at your company. 65% of apprentices stay with the same employer once their apprenticeship ends, according to government research. So, an apprenticeship is a good way to gain loyal employees.
Watch how Dyno Plumbing uses apprentices to support talent in their local area.
What employment rights does an apprentice have?
Apprentices have the same rights as the rest of your employees do, for the duration of their apprenticeship. This means they’re entitled to:
- Break(s) during the working day – at least one 20-minute break if they’re working more than six hours daily. It’s usually unpaid and can be split up if needed.
- Breaks during the working week – they’re entitled to at least 11 hours of uninterrupted rest between finishing work and starting work the following day. They must also have a 24-hour period of rest in a seven-day period.
- Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) – £95.85 per week (correct at the time of writing) if they’re too ill to work.
- Statutory maternity, paternity, adoption and shared parental pay and leave.
- A minimum notice period, that you (the employer) must give to them if their employment ends.
- Protection against unfair dismissal.
- The right to request flexible working.
- A reasonable amount of time off to deal with any emergencies involving their dependants (partner, child, parent etc).
- Statutory Redundancy Pay.
Can I offer a part-time apprenticeship?
Yes – but, the apprentice must work at least 16 hours per week. Part-time apprenticeships are a great option for those with caring or health needs.
Could I extend an apprenticeship if needed?
Apprentices can have a ‘break in learning’, if they’re unable to attend training. This could be because of illness on the apprentice’s behalf, you needing to temporarily move the apprentice to a different role where training can’t continue, or if the training provider closes for any reason.
You can start a break in learning for:
- Up to four weeks: Neither you nor the training needs to report the break. The apprenticeship end date stays the same and there’s no change to the payment of training and assessing funding.
- More than four weeks: You or the training centre must report a formal break in learning. The payment of funding to the training provider will be suspended during this time.
Can I furlough an apprentice or make them redundant?
Yes, apprentices can be made redundant in the same way that other staff are. Follow the normal process for making staff redundant. They must get redundancy pay, and can get support from their training provider or the National Apprenticeship Service to help them find another apprenticeship.
Apprentices can also be put on furlough under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.
Who pays an apprentice’s wages?
As their employer, you’ll need to pay each apprentice a salary. The rates are (correct at the time of writing):
16 to 18-year olds:
- £4.15 per hour.
19+ year olds in the first year of their apprenticeship:
- £4.15 per hour.
19+ year olds that have completed the first year of their apprenticeship:
- National Minimum Wage for their age group, which you can find on Gov.uk.
However, you can get grants, incentives and other funding from the government to support hiring an apprentice. The government will also pay 95% of the cost of training and assessment costs for your apprentice, directly to the training provider. Find out more about this in the ‘How do I hire an apprentice?‘ section of this guide.
What apprenticeship employer grants are available?
All employers receive a £1,000 cash grant for hiring an apprentice that’s 16-18 years old. Or, they can be under 25 years old if they have an Education, Health and Care plan. There’s also cash incentives for apprentices of all ages, detailed in the ‘What coronavirus (or COVID-19) employer incentives are available for apprenticeships?‘ section of this guide.
How do I hire an apprentice?
The construction and property industry is one of the top 5 industries for attracting apprentices, with 12% of all apprentices choosing construction apprenticeships over university. Here’s how to attract the best talent available.
1. Choose an apprenticeship training course that fits your business
From asbestos removal operatives to bricklayers, there are hundreds of types of apprenticeship training courses to choose from. You can find one on Gov.uk.
2. Find a training provider for the apprentice to study with
You can find a list of current apprenticeship training courses and the training providers offering them, on Gov.uk.
3. Agree on a total price for the cost of training and assessment with training provider
Speak directly to the training provider to discuss this.
4. Get funding from the government
The amount of money you’ll get depends on whether you pay the apprenticeship levy or not. You only pay the levy if you have an annual pay bill of over £3 million.
If you don’t pay the levy, then you’ll need to pay 5% of the cost of training and assessing your apprentice (point 3), directly to the training provider. The government will pay the rest (95%), directly to the training provider. Find out more about the Apprenticeship Levy.
5. Advertise your apprenticeship
Your training provider can advertise your apprenticeship opportunity on the government’s ‘Find an apprenticeship’ service. It’s also a good idea to share it on your business’s social media accounts – remember, lots of young people only connect with trades businesses online.
We’ve put together top tips for applicants, including how to correctly apply for an apprenticeship, in our guide to apprenticeships for applicants. You can share it on your social media to give advice to anyone that’s applying for an apprenticeship with you!
6. Choose your apprentice
Create a shortlist of the most suitable applicants. Then, you can find out more about each applicant and whether they’d be a good fit for your business through an interview. You can hold interviews over the phone, or using popular video call technology such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Skype.
7. Sign your apprenticeship agreement and commitment statement
Once you’ve picked a successful applicant to become your apprentice, you must sign an apprenticeship agreement with them. Plus, you need to sign a commitment statement with both the apprentice and the training provider. You can use the templates on Gov.uk to do this. Alternatively, you can draw up your own versions – find out what details you must include on Gov.uk.
Are there any specific requirements or qualifications that an applicant needs to have before becoming an apprentice?
An apprentice can be a new or current employee within your business. Plus, there’s no maximum age limit to become an apprentice. They just need to be aged 16 or over, and not in full time education. If they’re about to leave school, then they can only apply for an apprenticeship with you, if it’s starting in the next academic year. Just make sure they’re aged 16 or over by the end of the summer holiday before the apprenticeship starts.
An applicant may need to have certain formal qualifications before becoming your apprentice. But, this does depend on the level of apprenticeship that you’re offering. The training provider that you choose can advise you on this.
|Apprenticeship level||Entry requirements||Approx. completion time|
|Intermediate (Level 2)||They’ll need to show that they’re able to complete the programme.||One year to 18 months|
|Advanced (Level 3)||Some industries ask for three or more GCSEs, but others don’t.||15 to 24 months|
|Higher (Levels 4-7)||At least five GCSEs at grades A-C plus Level 3 qualifications, such as A Levels or BTECs.||Three to five years|
|Degree (Levels 6 and 7)||Five GCSEs at grades A-C plus Level 3 qualifications, such as A Levels or BTECs. Some degree apprenticeships ask for specific grades, and for the applicant to have qualifications in subjects that are related to the apprenticeship.||Three to six years|
Read more about what each apprenticeship level means in the ‘How do apprenticeships work?‘ section of this guide.
Apprenticeship framework – When were apprenticeship standards introduced?
The government removed apprenticeship frameworks from 1st August 2020. Instead, all new apprentices must start on an employer-led standard.
Existing apprentices that started their apprenticeship before 31st July 2020 on a framework can still complete their framework.
What are employer-led apprenticeship standards?
Apprenticeship standards allow employers to set out the skills, knowledge and behaviours required to complete the job. At the end of their apprenticeship, the apprentice will take an independent assessment so that they can show they’ve gained these skills, knowledge and behaviours.
Standards are constantly being published, as they’re developed and approved. You can choose from the ones that have been approved.
Find over 550 existing apprenticeship standards on the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education website.
What coronavirus (or COVID-19) employer incentives are available for apprenticeships?
The government has put together a £1.6 billion into providing funding and support for employers taking on apprentices and other work placements, as part of its new Plan for Jobs 2020. In the Budget on the 3rd March 2021, the government extended and put more funding into some of these initiatives. The opportunities include:
If you take on a new apprentice in England from 1st August 2020 to 31st March 2021, you’ll get another cash incentive in addition to the £1,000 detailed in the ‘What apprenticeship employer grants are available?‘ section of this guide. This depends on the apprentice’s age:
- Apprentices aged 16-24 years old: You’ll get £2,000.
- Apprentices aged 25 and over: You’ll get £1,500.
This incentive will rise to £3,000 for new apprentices taken on from 1st April 2021 to 30th September 2021, regardless of their age.
For the August 2020 to March 2021 incentive, you’ll be paid in two equal instalments, directly to your bank account. The first payment comes after the apprentice has completed 90 days of their apprenticeship, and the second comes after 365 days. The government hasn’t yet confirmed the payment details for the April to September 2021 incentive. We’ll add the details to this blog post once they’re released.
The payment can be spent on anything to support your business’s costs of running the apprenticeship – for example, you can spend it on their uniform or use it towards paying their salary.
There’s no limit on the amount of incentive payments you can get. Each apprentice you hire must not have been working for you within the six months before their apprenticeship starts.
You can apply for an apprenticeship incentive payment until 30th April 2021, on Gov.uk.
A traineeship is a skills development programme lasting between 6 weeks and 1 year, for people aged between 16 and 24 years old, or 25 years old if they have an Education, Health and Care Plan. There’s no cost to you for hosting a traineeship. But, you can choose to pay the trainee a wage or expenses.
If you take on a trainee between 1st September 2020 and 31st July 2021, you’ll get a £1,000 cash incentive. In the Budget, the government said that they’ll extend the traineeship cash incentives into the 2021/2022 academic year. There’s no set dates yet – we’ll update this guide when they’re announced.
Find out how to get started with traineeships on Gov.uk.
The government is investing £7 million into a new apprenticeship programme that allows apprentices to work with multiple employers within the same sector. FE Week says that the programme is likely to start in January 2022.
As an employer, this means you’ll get to choose from a wider pool of talented apprentices.
Work placements through the Kickstart Scheme
The Kickstart scheme offers 6-month work placements to 16-24-year-olds that are on Universal Credit and are at risk of long-term unemployment. There’s no cost to you if you provide work placements through the scheme, as the government covers:
- 100% of the National Minimum Wage for 25 hours per week, for a total of 6 months.
- The associated National Insurance contributions.
- The employer minimum automatic enrolment contributions.
You’ll also get £1,500 per placement once you’ve confirmed a placement, to pay support overhead costs such as buying a uniform for the trainee.
Checks will be made to show that your business is established, reputable and financially solvent. The government says you’re more likely to be approved if:
- You’ve existed for a while.
- You’ve regularly and recently submitted accounts.
- Your credit score is in a low risk category.
- You have a low probability of imminent business failure.
- You’ve got enough liquid assets to pay your debts.
- You don’t have any recent county court judgments (CCJs).
Check out the government’s tips for making a successful Kickstart Scheme application.
Is hiring an apprentice part of your plans for expanding your business? Grow even further by taking on new work in your area – there’s thousands of new leads waiting on Rated People.