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Apprentices - young 'uns for hire

By 21st January 2016 updated 13th March 2020";

It’s worth remembering a lot of skills can only be learnt or taught on the job. We have to accept that not every child performs well in the classroom or in an exam environment and some are just more suited to workplace learning.  

What employers have to realise is that apprentices have rights like everyone else and shouldn’t be taken on as a form of cheap labour without any investment or commitment.

Let’s start with the fact that apprentices start from 16 upwards and there are set apprentice rates that are updated annually.   An apprentice has exactly the same rights as an employee so that includes holidays, maternity, paternity, breaks, etc. Do not make the mistake of discriminating because of age.

Apprentices should have a clear route of training, work with experienced people, learn job specific skills, be studying towards a work based qualification and there should be an apprentice agreement in place.

When employing an apprentice there may be some age related issues and the most common ones are mobile phones, lateness, sickness, social media and conduct. These are easily addressed by setting out your standards and expectations from day one and issuing a contract and employee handbook just like you do with ordinary employees.  In England and Wales, you should issue an Apprenticeship Agreement, and in Scotland, apprentices need a contract of apprenticeship. It is always good practice to sit down with any new starter and go through the rules so that they are clear on what is and isn’t acceptable.  In England & Wales, apprentices can be treated just like normal employees but beware, in Scotland, you are expected to give an apprentice a lot more chances than an ordinary employee before you go down the disciplinary route or dismissal.

Health and Safety applies to all your employees including apprentices. Consider the Working Time Regulations which includes breaks, working hours and rest between shifts, look at the age of the employee because different rules will apply. Always consider supervision – never leave an untrained worker unsupervised.

Check out Opportunities Fife for more information and a starting point for your questions

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