Here in the South West, there are many businesses that have seen the benefits of investing in apprenticeship programmes. Businesses who have successfully invested in talented individuals wanting to develop a career, bringing new ideas, who can be moulded to reflect the standards and culture of the business. Businesses who have invested in long term training and development planning, bespoke to the industry, helping to tackle any skills shortages being faced.

At their best, apprenticeships inspire people, as well as developing and training professionals for the future.

Sadly, alongside the success stories, we also see situations when apprenticeships don’t work out. However, as Spiderman would say: ‘with great power comes great responsibility’ so how can you ensure that you get the best out of your apprentices?

Good practice

Good apprenticeship candidates will have different options available, so above all is your apprenticeship ‘offering’ competitive in the market, to attract good candidates? And are you advertising at the right times of year?

First and foremost, be very clear (with help from any training providers you are working with) on the training and development programme you are offering. What exactly does that programme look like, and how will you support your apprentice to develop their skills by the end of the programme?

Pay and benefits are also important – the National Minimum Wage rules for apprentices allow businesses to pay lower rates than for other employee categories, but do carefully consider the local candidate market before deciding if the minimum is the right rate to advertise (it may not be the rate you need to attract candidates!). Also be clear on any other non-pay benefits that will help to ‘sell’ your opportunity over others.

Always follow a thorough and fair (non-discriminatory!) recruitment process to help select the best candidate(s) available.

Give careful thought to proper induction, mentoring or ‘buddying’ for your apprentice. Many apprentices will be new to the world of work and often need more help than other new staff with getting to grips with the expectations and standards in your workplace.

Legal aspects

Sadly, we are sometimes asked to help clients when an apprenticeship has gone wrong, and termination of employment is being considered. There are some key legal points to be aware of:

Contract type

For centuries, the law governing apprenticeships was contained in common law, and apprentices worked under ‘contracts of apprenticeship’. Apprentices working under contracts of apprenticeship are employees with all the consequent rights. Reflecting that training is the primary purpose here, common law recognises that the ‘contract of apprenticeship’ is of a special character. Apprentices employed under a contract of apprenticeship therefore have enhanced rights on termination of their employment compared to “ordinary” employees, and employers owe them greater obligations, which introduce greater potential business risks if termination is being considered.

These days however, most apprentices in England are employed under an approved English Apprenticeship Agreement (under the ASCLA 2009 legislation). Given the more restricted rights offered to apprentices under this type of agreement, employers are more likely to want to enter into apprenticeship agreements under the ASCLA 2009 than a common law contracts of apprenticeship.

Your training provider may provide you with some help on this. Stephens Scown are experienced in helping employers to set up employment contracts of all types, including apprentices, and would be happy to help you.

Age discrimination

With apprentices tending to be younger workers, there are some potential risks of discrimination linked to age.

Government funding for apprentices has been tiered according to age. However, it is risky to apply a similar ‘upper age limit’ in your own apprentice recruitment. Please seek advice if you are unsure.

Some consideration should also be given to any “ordinary” employees, particularly in similar roles with similar length of service. For example, are you consistent with other terms and conditions of employment given to such workers, in comparison to apprentices?

The National Minimum Wage rates permit you to pay different rates of pay to employees of different ages (21 and over, 18 to 20, Under 18, and Apprentice). Note that the Apprentice rate (currently £3.30 per hour) is for apprentices aged 16 to 18, and those aged 19 or over who are in their first year. Do watch this ‘first year’ rule for those aged 19 and over, ensuring your payroll systems are set up correctly to pick up when increases are due.


Mark Roby is a HR advisor and paralegal based in our Truro office. If you would like to contact Mark about any of the content in this article, then please call 01872 265100 or email