Hiring an apprentice: how to hire an apprentice for your small business

Hiring an apprentice can bring big benefits. Our guide explains the legal requirements, benefits of hiring an apprentice, employment frameworks, and general ins and outs of this popular option for small business owners.

How do I hire an apprentice?

So what are the benefits of hiring an apprentice? You’ll get an extra pair of hands and a good first step towards becoming an employer, and at the same time you’ll be giving a lot back to the next generation or your working community. We’ve already covered a lot of the benefits of hiring an apprentice, so here we’ll go through the things you need to do to get your apprenticeship off the ground, and how to make a success of it for you, your apprentice, and your business.

How to hire an apprentice – employing an apprentice must-dos

First things first, it’s crucial to know and understand your legal obligations as an employer before taking on an apprentice. Once you’re finished with this article, make a note to check out our guide to the latest employment law updates and changes in the UK for 2017. Specifically for apprentices though, here are a few things you must take care of to keep on the right side of the current legislation.

1 Hiring an apprentice? Check their age…

Apprentices must be aged 16 or over by the end of the next summer holidays.

2 …and where they’re living

The apprentice will need to be living in England if that’s where the apprenticeship is based. Take a look at the Scottish, Welsh, and Northern Irish apprenticeship websites for region-specific guidance.

3 Are they in full time education?

If so, they can’t do the apprenticeship. Only people who are out of full-time education can start one.

Apart from that, it’s up to you to review any applications and decide who would make the best apprentice for your business. Apprentices can be new to your business, or they might already be an employee.

What’s the cost of hiring an apprentice?

You’ll need to pay at least the minimum wage, which is currently £3.50/hour for apprentices. Remember, the rate is reviewed every April. All apprentices are entitled to this rate if they’re aged under 19, or aged 19 or over and in the first year of their apprenticeship.

If your apprentice is aged 19 or over and has completed the first year of their apprenticeship, you’ll need to pay the correct minimum wage for their age group.

Do I need to pay my apprentice sick pay?

Here’s what you can expect to be paying and providing:

  • Pay for training and/or studying time while at work or college (or at their training organisation)
  • Any benefits and pay that other employees at a similar level/role are getting (this could include paid holiday, sick pay, and other benefits such as childcare voucher schemes)

It might sound like a lot, but remember, you’ll be getting a valuable extra pair of hands and there’s significant funding available depending on your business circumstances.

Apprenticeship funding options

If you’re in England, there is government funding available for the running costs of your apprenticeship. If you’re in Wales, Scotland, or Northern Ireland, take a look at the links at the end of the article.

As an employer in England, the amount of funding you can get will depend on whether or not you pay the apprenticeship levy. You’ll be paying this if you have a pay bill over £3 million each year.

I don’t pay the apprenticeship levy

You’ll pay 10 per cent towards the cost of training and assessing your apprentice. Once you’ve agreed a payment schedule with the training provider or organisation (see below), you’ll pay this directly to them.

The government will pay the remaining 90 per cent (or up to the funding band maximum) directly to the training organisation.

Remember, you may also be eligible for extra funding. This will depend on you and your apprentice’s circumstances, so check the 2017 apprenticeship funding details on Gov.uk’s website.

I do pay the apprenticeship levy

For businesses paying the levy, funds are available for training and apprenticeship assessment. On top of these, the government will add 10 per cent. England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland all have their own system for processing funding – check their websites to get started. However, as funding will be paid directly to the training organisation or provider, it may be best to start there and see how they work and manage funding.

Choose your apprenticeship framework

To obtain funding and manage your apprenticeship from start to finish, you need to find and use a framework (or ‘standard’) that’s right for your business and the type of apprentice you’d like to bring on board. Some are longer than others, and each carries its own funding band.

For frameworks applicable in England, use the handy search tool on Gov.uk to find the right framework for you, and play around with the different options. They’ll also summarise each framework for you, pull out helpful documents taking you through the standard for your role and and an assessment plan, plus a direct link to your local training providers.

Not in England? Use the links specific to your region at the end of this article.

Find a training organisation or provider

Now you’ve chosen your framework or standard, the next step is to make contact with an organisation or provider that offers the right kind of training.

Again, Gov.uk have everything you need for finding a training provider in England. Use their tool to search for training and providers by job role or keyword.

Advertising an apprenticeship

All set with your training organisation? It’s time to advertise your apprenticeship vacancy. For apprenticeships in England, your training organisation can get the ball rolling through Gov.uk’s find an apprenticeship service, and applications should start rolling in from there.

If you know someone who’d like to apply for the role directly, talk this through with your training provider.

Apprenticeship agreements

So you’re working towards a framework, happy with your training organisation or provider, and ready to offer your apprenticeship to the best candidate. It’s now very important that you make an apprenticeship agreement with your apprentice.

The agreement should give details of what you’re agreeing to do for your apprentice, including the length of their employment with you, the training you’re going to give, their working conditions, and the qualifications they’ll be working towards.

It’s fine to write your own, but Gov.uk also has an apprenticeship agreement template if you’re looking for help.

Sign your commitment statement

Finally, you, your apprentice, and the training organisation will need to sign a commitment statement. This should include the content and schedule you plan for the training, what’s expected and offered by you (as the employer), the training organisation, and your apprentice. It will also need to provide details of how you’ll resolve queries and complaints.

Do I need to insure my apprentice?

Yes, your apprentice will be classed as an employee so you’ll need to have employers’ liability insurance in place. You’re legally required to have a cover level of least £5 million, and while there are some exceptions, this ruling applies to most employers.

How long does an apprenticeship last?

According to Gov.uk, apprenticeships in England must last for at least a year. They can go on for up to five years though, depending on the framework you’ve chosen.

 How do I end my apprenticeship early?

This depends on whether you’re making the apprentice redundant, or ending the apprenticeship for other reasons.

If you’re making the apprentice redundant, you should follow Gov.uk’s guidance for making staff redundant. Apprentices will have the same rights as your other employees. If it’s not a redundancy, you’ll want to get legal advice for ending the apprenticeship early.

Hiring an apprentice in Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland?

Many of the principles above will apply wherever you are in the UK. However, if you’re not in England and looking to hire an apprentice, here are the websites you’ll need to get started with frameworks, training organisations, funding, and paperwork.

Hiring an apprentice in Scotland

Take a look at the Scottish apprenticeship authority website.

Hiring an apprentice in Wales

Wales has its own SkillsGateway service with all the details on how to set up an apprenticeship.

Hiring an apprentice in Northern Ireland

Use the government website to find out more about apprenticeships in Northern Ireland.

Useful links and contact details

There’s lots of information available to help you get started. Making sense of it is the challenge, so here are some key places to start. And as always, Simply Business Knowledge will keep you updated on all the latest.

Hiring an apprentice in England – government help and funding

Gov.uk have a dedicated apprenticeship centre, along with information on the current National Minimum Wage rates.

You can also get in touch with the National Apprenticeship Service on 08000 150 600, or look through their website for lots of tips for hiring an apprentice.

The Apprenticeship Levy – help and guidance

For any queries on the Apprenticeship Levy, Gov.uk’s general employer enquiries page has direct contact details and information.

Apprenticeship funding bands

Depending on the framework and standards you’re looking at, here’s the guidance for which funding band you’ll fit into.

Legal advice

Finally, taking legal advice is always a smart decision if you’re unsure about any of your employment plans and practices.

Looking for employers’ liability cover?

As the UK’s biggest business insurance provider, we specialise in employers’ liability insurance. We’ll run you a quick, tailored quote right now online, and let you decide if we’re a good fit.

Start your quote