Policy News Journal - 2014-15

Government proposal to simplify and boost the national minimum wage for apprentices

8 October 2014

Business Secretary Vince Cable has outlined proposals to simplify and boost the national minimum wage for apprentices, making apprenticeships an even more financially attractive route for young people deciding whether to go into full time employment or to earn whilst they learn. Based on the current national minimum wage rates for 16 to 17 year olds, the proposal would give around 31,000 apprentices in the first year of their programme a pay rise of more than £1 an hour, rising from £2.73 to £3.79 per hour.

Apprentices: Do you understand their legal status?

8 October 2014

With increases in apprentice numbers and both Labour and the Conservatives pledging to create more apprenticeships after the next general election, it is sensible to review what employers thinking of taking on apprentices need to know about their legal status.

Thanks to Personnel Today for this report:

House of Commons Library statistics show there were 510,200 new apprenticeships starting in the academic year 2012/13, an increase of around 80% from 2009/10. With so many employers providing apprenticeships, it is important to be clear on their legal status. Can you treat apprentices as “normal” employees or do they have additional rights?

The traditional apprentice

The traditional apprenticeship has been a two-party arrangement between a master craftsman and an apprentice, generally lasting for a fixed term, under which the apprentice is trained in the master’s skill and works under a contract of apprenticeship. It differs from a contract of employment, as the primary purpose of the contract is training and not work. Traditional apprentices are employees, but they have enhanced protection against dismissal. They cannot be made redundant unless the business actually closes or its fundamental nature changes. A conduct dismissal requires more extreme misconduct than for a normal employee, with one old case going so far as to say that the apprentice must be “virtually unteachable”. An apprentice wrongly dismissed before the end of his or her contract can be awarded an enhanced claim for damages with compensation, not only for loss of earnings and training for the entire remainder of the apprenticeship, but also for loss of future career prospects.

The statutory apprentice

In 1994 the Government introduced what it called “modern apprenticeships”, which were rebranded as simply “apprenticeships” in 2004. These were generally three-party arrangements between the employer, the apprentice and an external third-party training provider, often supported by government funding. The apprentice would obtain a nationally recognised qualification, either at NVQ level 3 (equivalent to two A-levels) or at NVQ level 2 (equivalent to five GCSEs).

It might be thought these statutory apprenticeships had little in common with the traditional idea of apprenticeships. However, the courts decided that – even though the training was

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