Get the full picture on apprenticeships

Year Published: 2012

There is no doubt that apprenticeships have benefits for both employers and young people looking for work, providing much needed employment and skill.

More and more businesses from large corporates to SMEs are taking up the idea. Recent research showed that some 92 per cent of employers who take on apprentices believe that the scheme leads to a more motivated and satisfied workforce.

However, the Employment team at SAS Daniels has noticed an increasing number of employers seeking advice after stumbling upon difficulty in their legal position with apprentices.

Those businesses considering taking on apprentices are being urged to be fully aware of their obligations when recruiting an apprentice and to consider the following legal ties before signing on the dotted line:

  1. An apprenticeship is a contract between the employer and the apprentice, and as such has to be adhered to as in the case of any other contract. It is a fixed term contract with very limited scope for early termination.
  2. If the employer breaches the contract, loss of earnings can be assessed over the remaining term of the agreement plus further damages for the apprentice’s lost opportunity to qualify into their chosen career.  This could be ten times the cost of an unfair dismissal claim.
  3. It needs to be borne in mind that most apprenticeship commitments can’t be withdrawn if a business gets into financial difficulty and needs to make redundancies.
  4. A certain amount of latitude is expected to be given to the apprentice to take account of any lapses in judgement or conduct. Behaviour that would ordinarily not be tolerated with another employee may need to be tolerated with an apprentices.

There is no doubt that most apprenticeship schemes are ultimately cost effective, motivational for other staff and are great way to bring fresh new talent and energy into your business – however employers need to be fully aware of their obligations and potential pitfalls when recruiting an apprentice and ensure all contracts, policies and health and safety assessments are planned with apprentices in mind.

For further legal advice on apprenticeships, contact our Employment Law and HR team on 0161 475 7676

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