Making employing apprentices easier

We’ve included the most frequently asked questions from both small and large employers when considering taking on an apprentice.

There is no age limit, apprentices can be any age above 16 years. You can offer Apprenticeships to new or current staff of all ages and at any level.

The government wants to encourage employers to offer young people excellent career opportunities through Apprenticeships.  They will therefore pay you £1,000 for each 16-18 year old you enrol on an Apprenticeship (paid in 2 stages, at 3 and 12 months).  

Additional incentives are also available, have a look at our funding options page via this link: ADD LINK TO PAGE WHEN LIVE

This is paid whether you are a Levy or Non-Levy payer and is irrespective of the size of the company.  Older staff, even those with degrees, can now also follow Apprenticeships if they are taking up new roles or require new knowledge and skills to perform their roles. Apprenticeships have long been associated with young people, however, people of all ages are now completing apprenticeships to progress in their current role or even to start a new and exciting career.

Your selected training provider may also be able to access funding from their local combined authority. This funding can cover up to 100% of the training costs. It is worth asking your chosen provider about funding options to support you with training fees.

Non-levy paying employers will share the cost of training and assessing their apprentices with the government. This is called ‘co-investment’.

In practical terms, this means that the employer will pay 5% towards the cost of apprenticeship training, and the Government will pay the rest (95%), up to the funding band maximum. However, if you have less than 50 employees and your apprentice meets the criteria, you can receive 100% funding from the government.

For full details and to confirm your contribution you can use our apprenticeship cost calculator on our home page

Great question and one that comes up a lot. Below is a great article from OneFile along with our own infographic that you can download that will explain.

According to the ESFA’s apprenticeships funding rules, all new standards must contain 20% off-the-job training. 

This may seem like a fairly reasonable statement, but this rule has been causing controversy throughout the sector. But why?

We look at the five major flaws in the system – and find the solution!

1. 20% is a large proportion of the working week. 

The 20% off-the-job training is calculated using the apprentice’s contracted employment hours across their whole apprenticeship – equivalent to around one day per working week. This is a lot of time for apprentices to be spending away from the workplace, and will have a big impact on employers who will now lose trainee employees for a fifth of their contracted hours.

This is even more of a burden for employers who are using apprenticeships to upskill their existing staff. These employers will now lose a fully productive member of their team for a whole day a week, and will want proof that this off-the-job training is worthwhile.

2. Lack of clarity 

Many people across the sector are confused about what ‘off-the-job’ actually means. To help clear things up, the ESFA has defined off-the-job as ‘learning which is undertaken outside of the normal day-to-day working environment and leads towards the achievement of an apprenticeship.’ 

This is still open to interpretation – and it gets worse:

Training can be delivered at the apprentice’s normal place of work but not as part of their normal working duties.’ 

Okay… so they can do off-the-job training at work as long as they’re not on-the-job. Still confused? Same – so we’ve broken down what can and cannot be used towards the 20% :


  • Theory – such as lectures, role playing, online learning, simulation exercises or manufacturer training.
  • Practical training apprentices wouldn’t usually do during the week – such as shadowing, mentoring, industry visits or competitions.
  • Learning support and time spent writing assignments


  • English and maths (up to level two) which is funded separately
  • Progress reviews or on-programme assessments that are required in the apprenticeship standards
  • Training that takes place outside the apprentice’s paid working hours

3. English and Maths is not included in the 20% 

Functional skills in English and maths cannot be used as off-the-job training, so apprentices completing this will need additional time off on top of the 20%. Many employers won’t want to send staff away to study, and may choose those who already have English and maths over a less skilled applicant. This will make apprenticeships elitist against the people in our society who need the most support – which is completely the opposite of what apprenticeships are all about!

4. Scheduling issues

The 20% is clear, but employers can decide how and when they want off-the-job training to be delivered. It can be for one day a week, for one week out of five or grouped together at the beginning or end of the apprenticeship.

5. Potential punishment for employers

If employers fail to release their apprentices for off-the-job training, they could face serious repercussions. The ESFA has said ‘if employers undertake illegal activity, we could completely remove their ability to use their levy funding. If they break the rules, they lose control.’

There are a lot of apprenticeship providers delivering training, so many that it can become confusing and difficult to find the right one for your organisation. It can at times seem a long and daunting process.

However, selecting the right provider can be summarised with some simple but critical considerations that you should think about before committing to working with a provider. When selecting a provider you should ensure they have a strong track record with a good history of training delivery. This can be checked via their Ofsted rating, success rates and even learner reviews (You can find a training provider and see their ratings and reviews via our ‘Find a Training Provider’ page).

You should ask the provider for any case studies or reviews from other employers and their learners. Are they recognised in their industry and do they have any similar clients to your organisation.

You should also confirm if the provider can deliver training in the geographical areas that your business operates within. Some providers only deliver locally to their head office whilst others deliver nationally. (You can find training providers near you via the ‘Find an apprenticeship’ page).

We have over 600 rated and reviewed training providers on our website that you can use to qualify your team or your new apprentice. We have done all of the hard work for you so that you don’t have to. 

You will need to work with an approved training provider.

All apprenticeship training providers must have been quality checked by the Education Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) to meet a series of criteria including quality, finance, staffing and management. Only those providers who have been approved and are listed on the Register of Apprenticeship Training Provider list produced by the ESFA can deliver your apprenticeship programmes. The great news is that we have a full list of rated and reviewed providers that you can access. Simply search for the apprenticeship you need and enter your postcode via our ‘Find an apprenticeship’ page to find providers near you. 

The legal definition of an apprenticeship is ‘a job with training’. The training is provided by both the employer and provider and should be reflected in a Training Plan attached to the agreement the Training provider sets up with the employer.

Being clear about everyone’s roles and responsibilities from the outset helps manage expectations and more importantly ensure success.

There must be a genuine job available with a contract of employment long enough for an apprentice to complete their apprenticeship. Employers must pay an apprentice’s wages and the role must help them gain the knowledge, skills and behaviours they need to achieve the apprenticeship with support from you the employer.

Employers can select a training provider using our training provider search tool and agree on a total price
for the cost of training and assessment. For an apprenticeship standard, this should include the cost of the end-point assessment which must be agreed with the provider selected from our list of rated and reviewed training providers.

As an Employer you need to have:

  • an apprenticeship agreement in place
    with their apprentice for the duration of
    the apprenticeship
  • a commitment statement signed by the
    apprentice, their employer and the
  • a written agreement with providers, for
    employers who pay the apprenticeship
    levy and use the apprenticeship service,
    they will need to have a contract for
    services with their main provider
  • an apprenticeship in place for at least
    one year
  • the apprentice on the correct wage for
    their age, for the time they are in work,
    in off-the-job training and doing further
    study (Use our apprenticeship cost calculator)

We recommend viewing our support pages for more information, simply visit our homepage or request free one to one support via your member dashboard.

It is key to remember “Apprenticeships are jobs and apprentices are treated like anyone else in the workplace.”

Apprentices should be issued with an apprenticeship agreement which is a contract of employment, from the day they start to give them the same employment rights as any employee. Once an apprentice has completed their apprenticeship, they should continue to work as part of that organisation, and in some instances get the chance to progress on to a higher-level apprenticeship.

If the business is not able to offer continuing employment following the apprenticeship they still should offer certain support:

“There are occasions where an apprenticeship could be offered as a fixed term contract and where this happens, we would expect the employer to support apprentices to secure other employment and, at the very least, offer them an exit interview.” says the Skills Funding Agency.

When an employer takes on an apprentice, it essentially takes on an employee. Apprentices have the same employee rights as anyone else, except there is a pre-planned end to that employment which will be stated in the apprenticeship agreement.

Although apprentices will be training during the scheme, they should receive a regular wage and be entitled to holidays, fair working hours and rest breaks.


Working Hours

The limit for an average working week is 48 hours, or 40 if an apprentice or employee is under 18. People can work more than this in one week, but over a 17-week period, it must average out to less than this.

Apprentices, like employees, are also entitled to at least one 20-minute break for every six hours that you work and at least 11 hours off between shifts.


Holiday Entitlement

Apprentices are entitled to at least one and a half days’ paid holiday for every month of their training along with bank holidays. Apprentices also have the right to at least 24 hours free from work in a week or 48 hours free in two weeks. This increases to 48 hours free from work in a week if they are under 18.



Apprentices are paid a regular wage weekly or monthly, and pay tax and national insurance as normal.

The National Minimum Wage for apprentices can be found via this link: https://www.gov.uk/national-minimum-wage-rates

The rate applies to apprentices aged 16-18, and to those aged 19 or over who are in their first year of their training. All other apprentices are entitled to the national minimum wage for their age.

Employers are free to pay above the new wage and many do so, but employers must ensure that they are paying their apprentices at least the minimum wage. You can use our cost calculator to see how much it will cost to train and employ an apprentice.

There isn’t a limit to the number of apprentices a business can take on, but they must ensure programmes meet the requirements set out by the relevant authorities.

If taking on more apprentices impedes an organisation’s ability to meet requirements, no more should be employed.

In England and Wales businesses must pay their apprentices at least the minimum wage during their placement. You can use our cost calculator to understand the costs associated with taking on an apprentice. Remember the benefits certainly outweigh the financial costs.

All apprentices must:

Work with experienced staff, learn job-specific skills and study for a work-based qualification during their working week for example attend college or a training organisation.

The apprentice agreement is often referred to as a ‘modern apprenticeship’ it differs from that of an apprentice contract in that the law treats the apprentice in the same way as an employee under a contract of employment with no additional rights.


What is the relevant law relating to apprenticeships?

S.32 of the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009 (ASCLA) sets out the prescribed format of an apprentice agreement and states that any agreement entered into is under a qualifying apprentice framework. The Regulations which came into force on the 6 April 2012 set out what the agreement should include. These are:

  • That the apprentice agreement is in the prescribed format
  • That written statement of particulars has been provided to the apprentice
  • That a contract of employment or letter of engagement is provided
  • That the agreement sets out the skill, trade or occupation that the apprentice is being trained for.


What you should include in an apprentice agreement?

As well as being set out in the prescribed format, an employer may also want to consider including the following provisions:

  • The duration of the agreement and whether the apprentice will be subjected to a probationary period;
  • How the apprentice will be monitored and assessed regarding their performance and development;
  • The time off that will be provided for attending training and for any examinations;
  • Details of notice periods for each party to bring the agreement to an end;
  • If the apprentice is under the age of 18, you may wish to have a parent or guardian sign the agreement;

Nevertheless, we would recommend that legal advice or the services of a solicitor are obtained if you are considering employing an apprentice. This is due to ensuring that the regulations are complied with, and that the prescribed information is contained.

A properly drafted agreement will avoid potential issues being raised during the relationship, and significantly reduce the likelihood of facing an employment tribunal.


What if the agreement is not put in writing?

If the agreement does not comply with the regulations or can be evidenced in a document, then the default position of the apprentice being employed under a contract of apprenticeship will apply.

A contract of apprenticeship does not need to contain specific provisions or be in a particular form. It is governed by common law and affords an apprentice greater right than that of an employee. These include not being able to terminate for redundancy and it is very difficult to terminate the contract for any other reason.

If a contract of apprenticeship is terminated they can claim to be paid for the entire duration of the fixed term, and also for the loss of employment opportunity if they have not been able to complete their qualification. This could be a very costly claim for an employer.

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Flexi-job apprenticeship will allow agencies to be the apprentice’s employer for the duration of their apprenticeship while placing the apprentice with other host employers for short term placements. This will enable apprentices to move between businesses as they complete their apprenticeship, while remaining employed throughout by the agency.

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PAYE is HM Revenue and Customs’ (HMRC) system to collect Income Tax and National Insurance from employment. More information are available here