Your Apprenticeship Rights - The Ultimate Guide

Your Apprenticeship Rights - The Ultimate Guide

From pay, hours & breaks to parental leave, flexible working, and union membership - we cover the essentials.

An apprenticeship is a fantastic opportunity to learn-on-the-job in an industry you can thrive in, with little prior experience and just your enthusiasm in your pocket. However, it is still an employed position, and as such you have certain apprentice employment rights; after all, you chose an apprenticeship to get paid as well as learn, right? Apprentice rights at work protect you from exploitation.

In this article, we’ll be exploring what legal rights apprentices have here in the UK, from pay, hours and breaks to parental leave, flexible working, and even union membership.

What is an apprenticeship?

An apprenticeship allows you to learn and earn at the same time; you’ll have an employed position at a business that can offer you hands-on experience in your chosen field, as well as time to complete more theory-based studies and combine the two to work towards a recognised qualification.

What are the benefits of an apprenticeship?

For the apprentice:

• You’ll get a better understanding of the industry you’re going into - seeing is believing!

• You’ll gain a rounded skillset, not only learning the theory of a role, but taking on practical, technical, and industry-specific skills, too.

• There’s the chance that you could end up with a permanent position at the employer you do your apprenticeship with

• You’ll be able to earn money as you learn

For the employer:

• Apprenticeship programmes can be tailored to the businesses needs, so not only is the apprentice getting their qualification, but the business can potentially plug a gap in their workforce’s skillset

• Reduced recruitment costs, both due to the way apprentices are hired, and because apprentices can become permanent employees, reducing staff turnover

• Apprenticeships can be a way for individuals from diverse backgrounds to enter the

workforce, helping employers make their workplace more diverse

What am I entitled to as an apprentice?

The main things that you’re entitled to as an apprentice are:

An apprenticeship agreement

Signed by the apprentice and the employer, an apprenticeship agreement acts as a contract of employment, detailing important elements of the apprenticeship such as the length of the apprenticeship, what you’ll be paid, the hours you’ll work, and the qualification you’re working towards.

An apprenticeship is not only a legally binding agreement; it’s actually required by law, too.

An apprenticeship training plan

An apprenticeship training plan sets out in more detail the content of the training you’ll receive from the employer, and how it will work together with any classroom-based training and/or e-learning.

Training time

This is at least 20% of your working time spent learning more theory-based elements of your apprenticeship.

Workplace rights

As an apprentice, you’ll have the right to the same conditions as those working in a similar role at a similar grade, which includes statutory holiday allowance, sick pay, and protection from discrimination.

You are also entitled to:

• A full workplace induction

• Quality training

• Regular assessments and reviews of your progress

• Protection from unfair dismissal

• Automatic enrolment into a pension scheme if your earnings are high enough

What should an apprenticeship agreement include?

An apprenticeship agreement should outline:

• The trade, skill or occupation you’re training for

• The name of the apprenticeship you’re doing

• The dates that your apprenticeship will start and end

• The amount of training you’ll receive

What should an apprenticeship training plan include?

Your apprenticeship training plan should detail:

• What the content of and schedule for your training will be

• what is expected of and offered by your employer, training provider and you as the apprentice

• How questions and complaints should be dealt with

Along with your apprenticeship agreement, you’ll need to sign your apprenticeship training plan, as will your employer and training provider.

Getting paid as an apprentice

What pay is an apprentice entitled to?

One thing you’ll likely be keen on clarifying is how much you can expect to be paid as an apprentice. As a minimum, apprenticeship should be paid the national minimum wage, though an employer can of course choose to pay more than this.

Here’s what rate of pay you’re looking at depending on your age, as of April 2024:

  • Aged 16 to 18: £6.40 per hour
  • Aged 19 or over in your apprenticeship’s first year: £6.40 per hour
  • Aged 19 or over having completed your first year: The National Minimum Wage or National Living Wage for your age. You can use the National Minimum Wage and Living Wage calculator to work out what that will be for you.

When do you get paid as an apprentice?

You’ll be paid the same as any other employee working for that employer - this could be weekly or monthly.

Do you pay income tax and national insurance as an apprentice?

Apprentices are liable for income tax and national insurance in the same way as any other employee, but this will depend on the amount that you earn. This will be deducted from your pay by your employer.

Who is responsible for paying an apprentice?

The employer is responsible for paying you as an apprentice.

Does an apprentice get paid for college days?

20% of the time you are paid for should be spent learning off-the-job (more if you’re studying for an English and/or maths qualification) so yes, you will be paid for college days.

Are you entitled to a payslip as an apprentice?

Yes, you should receive a payslip like any other employee, which will show any deductions that have been made for tax and national insurance.

How many hours a week can an apprentice legally work?

The rights an apprentice has in terms of working hours are the same as any other employee under The Working Time Regulations 1998. This states that employees and workers over 18 must not, on average (averaged over around 17 weeks), work more than 48 hours per week. Those under 18 are entitled to enhanced rights, which we’ll talk about later.

As an apprentice, you should be working at least 30 hours a week, which includes your study time. Your apprenticeship can be made part time in some cases by extending the duration.

What breaks are apprentices entitled to?

The Working Time Regulations 1998 also states the rest breaks that an employee or worker is legally entitled to - and these apply to apprentices too. These include:

• A 20-minute rest break during a day in which you’re expected to work more than 6 hours

• 11 hours of rest between finishing work and starting work the next working day

• 24 hours rest every 7 working days, or 48 hours every 14 working days.

An employer can, of course, offer longer breaks. Rest breaks should be planned, uninterrupted, and you should be able to take them away from the area in which you work.

Those breaks taken during the working day should not be added to the beginning or end of your working hours.

If you work more than 6 hours, there’s no automatic obligation for the employer to allow you to have a longer break, but ideally they’ll consider it.

Again, those under 18 are entitled to more than this.

What training time is an apprentice entitled to?

At least 20% of your working time will be spent doing off-the-job training. This could mean, for example, 1 day out of 5 spent off-the-job, but it could also be made up of sections of the working day, or whole blocks of time. Training time could take the form of:

• Attending classroom-based learning at a college or university

• Doing e-learning online  

• Studying and revising on your own

• Being mentored or learning a new skill in the workplace

• Industry field trips

• Apprenticeship welcome events

Training time enables you as an apprentice to learn the theory-based elements of the job, and get you up to an industry standard so that they can become thoroughly competent.

If you are also working towards your English and/or Maths qualifications, this study time should be given to you by your employer on top of your apprenticeship study time. Progress reviews, training that doesn’t help you towards your apprenticeship, initial onboarding and team meetings also do not count towards your study time.

Taking holiday as an apprentice

How much paid holiday do you get as an apprentice?

As an apprentice, you’re entitled to the same amount of holiday as any other employee. For someone working a standard five-day week, you get 28 days holiday (including public holidays), which is 5.6 weeks of paid annual leave per year. This may alternatively be set out as 20 days holiday + public holidays.

What workplace rights does an apprentice have?

Health and safety

Apprentices, like any other employee, have a right to feel safe and happy within their working environment, with the employer always complying with health and safety regulations. You should be provided with health and safety training accordingly and understand your part in keeping yourself and those around you safe.

Protection against discrimination

The Equality Act 2010 protects those in the workplace and those going through the interview process against discrimination at work, and that includes apprentices. This means that you cannot legally be treated less favourably because of your age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage or civil partnership, pregnancy/maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, or sexual orientation.

Support following redundancy

Apprentices have the same redundancy rights as other employees, so an employer must follow the appropriate redundancy process if this is the route they’re going down.

As an apprentice, you can receive 12 weeks’ worth of redundancy support from the UK Government or your training provider in order for you to find alternative employment to continue your apprenticeship.

Do apprentices have the right to request flexible working arrangements?

Just like other employees, you have the right to request flexible working arrangements as an apprentice. This could be a change to the number of hours you work, your start and finish times, the days you work, or the place in which you do your work - you can make the request from day 1 of working for the employer, too.

What support is available for apprentices with a learning difficulty or disability?

First and foremost, you’re entitled to the same protection against discrimination in the workplace and during the interview process as every other employee, which includes discrimination against you for your learning difficulty or disability.

There are also reasonable adjustments that an employer and training provider must make to ensure you are not put at a disadvantage. These can vary, depending on what exactly you need, but could include extra equipment, time, training opportunities and refreshments, as well as arranging your tasks differently, or making physical changes to your place of work (such as ramps for wheelchairs).

What parental leave is an apprentice entitled to?

An apprentice has the same rights to parental leave as any other employee. This means that you can take statutory maternity leave (up to 52 weeks, with the first two weeks compulsory), and statutory paternity leave (1 to 2 weeks). You are also entitled to paid time off for antenatal appointments, and you can choose to take shared parental leave.

What rights do employers have to terminate my apprenticeship?

An employer can only terminate your apprenticeship with them if you’re not meeting the expectations of the business, or as part of redundancy. In any case, the employer must follow a fair process, the same as they would by dismissing an employee.

Dismissal terms should be outlined in your apprenticeship agreement.

What extra rights do apprentices aged 16 and 17 have?

Anyone aged 15, 16 or 17 years old is classed as a young worker, and as the rules in England and Wales state that a young person must be in full-time education or work-based training until they are 18 years old, you could take on an apprenticeship after you leave school at 16 or 17 years old. If you do, you are entitled to some enhanced rights as a young worker.

How many hours a week can an apprentice under 18 legally work?

Young workers cannot legally work more than 8 hours a day or 40 hours per week.

What breaks are apprentices under 18 entitled to?

If you are an apprentice under 18, you are entitled to:

• A 30-minute rest break during a day in which you’re expected to work more than 4.5 hours

• 12 hours of rest between finishing work and starting work the next working day

• 48 hours of rest taken consecutively each week or if this is not possible (and there should be a good business reason why), at least 36 hours rest should be taken, with the remaining 12 hours taken as soon as possible afterwards.

What support is there for apprentices?

It’s essential that you know where you get support as an apprentice if you believe that your rights aren’t being upheld.

For a start, you should have the support of your employer’s HR department, and your training provider. Externally to them, you can get help through the UK Government’s apprenticeships support centre, ACAS (the go-to resource for employment rights information), and Citizens Advice.

Can apprentices join a union?

You have the right to join a trade union as an apprentice, who can represent, protect and support you if you feel that your treatment is unfair.

Find the right apprenticeship provider

Here at Skern, we help employers to offer hands-on learning experiences to gain a thorough understanding of their chosen field of work, equipping them with the practical skills they need to really succeed in their career. In turn, those employers can support their apprentices in the right way, giving them a positive working experience and ensuring they can make the most of their opportunity to gain a qualification through real-life scenarios.

Find out more about the apprenticeship programmes we offer here at Skern, and get in touch with any questions you might have.

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