One hundred years ago, apprenticeships were the norm. But as the middle class grew, more and more people went to university and apprenticeships became a thing of the past.
Yet all that has changed in recent years and there has been a sharp increase in the number of companies offering apprenticeships, opening up a diverse range of professions to the young people of today.
And while this is undoubtedly a good thing, it has left many people wondering what rights they are entitled to, if any. Apprentices are not interns as they do not work for free; and yet they are not fully qualified employees.
Despite this state of limbo, apprentices do have employment rights and they are protected by the law. For example, they are entitled to receive a minimum wage, starting from their first day in the company. An apprentice must be paid for their normal working hours, and any training they undertake as part of the scheme.
Nevertheless, this minimum wage is lower than National Minimum Wage. For apprentices who are aged 16 to 18, or aged 19 and over but in their first year of the apprenticeship, the rate of pay currently stands at £2.65 per hour. However, this does not apply to apprentices aged 19 and over who have completed their first year, all of whom must receive the National Minimum Wage for their age.
Apprentices who work full time should also be allowed to have at least 20 days paid holiday per year (plus bank holidays.)
These are the basic employment rights to which an apprentice is entitled and an employer will have many more legal obligations to fulfil, with one of the most important being to protect the health and safety of staff while at work – including apprentices.
If you are an apprentice and you believe you are being denied your rights – perhaps because you are not being paid the minimum wage for apprentices – you need to clarify your position. A solicitor who specialises in employment law will be able to advise you further, helping you understand whether your rights are being breached.
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