Apprenticeships: things to think about


An apprenticeship is a work-based training programme that leads to nationally recognised qualifications.

Apprenticeship duration

The minimum duration of an apprenticeship for people aged between 16 and 18 is 12 months.

For individuals aged  19 or over, the duration of an apprenticeship is normally between one and four years – unless prior learning or attainment has taken place.

To qualify for government funding, you must meet these minimum durations.

Furthermore, apprentices must work at least 30 hours a week. If 30 hours isn’t practicable for your business, then an absolute minimum of 16 hours must be worked. However, if this is the case, you should extend the duration of the apprenticeship.

Apprenticeship levels

There are four different apprenticeship levels available, and these are:

Name Level Equivalent education level
Intermediate 2 5 GCSE passes at grades A* to C
Advanced 3 2 A level passes
Higher 4, 5, 6 and 7 Foundation degree and above
Degree 6 and 7 Bachelor’s or master’s degree


The government often offers better funding for younger apprentices, however, you shouldn’t put an upper age limit on applications based on this – if you do, you run the risk of age discrimination claims.

Apprentices aged between 16 and 18 or in the first year of an apprenticeship are legally entitled to at least £3.50 an hour. All other apprentices are entitled to the wage-for-age National Minimum Wage (NMW) rate.

Contract of apprenticeship

This is the traditional form of apprenticeship, whereby the core purpose of the contract is training – execution of work is secondary.

A contract of apprenticeship is governed by common law. Some of its key characteristics are that the employer provides education and training in the relevant trade or profession, and that the apprentice agrees to follow all reasonable requests made by their employer.

Apprentices employed under a contract of apprenticeship are heavily protected from unfair and wrongful dismissal.

Apprenticeship Agreement

For apprenticeship frameworks in England and Wales, an apprenticeship agreement between yourself and the apprentice must be in place for the duration of the apprenticeship – without it, an apprenticeship certificate can’t be issued.

Essentially, an apprenticeship agreement is a ‘normal’ employment contract.

Apprenticeship Agreements must be in writing and include things like:

  • Apprentice’s name
  • Skill, trade or occupation for which the apprentice is being trained
  • Relevant apprenticeship framework and level.

If your business is based in Scotland or Northern Ireland, or if you’re offering a different type of apprenticeship, such as a Trailblazer apprenticeship, Apprenticeship Agreements don’t apply.

What’s an apprenticeship framework?

An apprenticeship framework details all the statutory requirements that come with an apprenticeship programme. It’s used by colleges, employers and training providers to ensure the consistency of national standards across apprenticeship programmes being delivered.

Benefits and terms

All apprentices are entitled to the same benefits as other employees.

When it comes to the terms of employment for apprentices, they should be consistent with that of the terms for other employees. If they’re not, you must be able to objectively justify any differences.

Financial support

To encourage employers in England to take on apprentices, as of May 2017, the following incentives are available:

  • £1,000 for both employers and providers when they train an apprentice aged between 16 and 18.
  • £1,000 for both employers and providers when they train an apprentice aged between 19 and 24, who’s previously been in care, or have a Local Authority Education, Health and Care Plan.
  • Businesses with less than 50 people on their payroll can train apprentices aged between 16 and 18 without contributing a penny towards the cost of training – the government will foot the entire bill.

For details of apprenticeship funding outside England, head over to:

We’ve got you covered

If you need a hand with any area of apprenticeships, don’t struggle alone. Our experienced Employment Law experts are here to help – just give us a call on 0345 844 1111 or get in touch online.

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