Apprenticeships: The benefits and legal rules which may help avoid a COVID ‘lost generation’

16th November 2020

Following the recent adverse publicity for university students regarding self-isolation and courses delivered online, some aspiring undergraduates may be rethinking a degree option. What alternatives can employers offer?

The Government has recently launched a number of schemes, some of which promote apprenticeships, to help young people enter the workplace – how helpful are they and what do employers need to know about engaging apprentices?

Ruth Christy, former Blake Morgan Employment law solicitor and Professional support lawyer, looks at how employers can help young people who may have lost opportunities because of COVID-19 in an article first published in People Management on 13 November. She examines the benefits of apprenticeships and what legal rules apply.

UPDATE: Please note that since this article was first written, the original requirement for a minimum of 30 job placements has been removed, effective from 3 February 2021. For more details see the Government press release.

Benefits of apprenticeships

For businesses with 50 or more employees, but who aren’t levy-payers, the Government ‘co-invests’ 95% of the cost of the external course element of the apprenticeship (which must be at least 20 per cent of an apprentice’s normal hours in England). For those with fewer than 50 employees, the Government pays 100% of this cost for young apprentices subject to funding band limits.

This August, a new incentive was introduced for taking on apprentices new to the business (£2,000 for 16-24 year olds; £1,500 for those 25 and over), and there is an incentive too for progressing those on the ‘Kickstart Scheme’ to apprenticeships prior to 31 January 2021.

Many employers find that the additional costs of management time and supervision needed for apprentices are counterbalanced by the lower wages initially required and the knowledge that the apprentice will learn in accordance with the employer’s values and needs.

Legal rules

Having come far from the traditional ‘apprentice’ in employment law with the risks of not being able to dismiss or make them redundant, it is still important to get an apprenticeship agreement right. Following changes in 2015, an ‘approved English apprenticeship agreement’ is used in England and an ‘apprenticeship agreement’ continues in Wales. Separate provisions apply to Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Contact our Employment Law team to discuss if you wish to consider setting up apprenticeships and require legal advice.

This article is part of the Employment Law Newsletter – Winter 2021

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