Apprenticeships are becoming increasingly popular according to new government figures released last week, which showed an increase of 50,000 apprentice jobs compared to the previous academic year. With apprenticeships growing in popularity, it is more important than ever for apprentices to know their employment rights.
Apprenticeships are work-place training posts, which allow you to earn a wage whilst completing the necessary training to progress to becoming a full-time employee. Anyone over the age of 16 can apply to become an apprentice, providing they are resident in England and are not currently in full time education.
Apprentices are now considered employees in the eyes of the law, and as such gain certain employment rights, however the status of apprentices is slightly different. Therefore the employment law that applies to apprentices is different to that which would apply to a regular employee.
Employment law now assimilates apprentices into an employer-employee relationship (although technically an apprenticeship contract is one for training, not employment), effectively allowing you to benefit from employment law rights and protections. A crucial employment right that applies to apprentices is the right not to be discriminated against at work on the basis of your gender, age, religion, race, disability status or sexual identity. It is worth noting that some apprenticeships may lawfully only be open to candidates of a certain age.
Apprentices are also legally entitled to earn the national minimum wage, which is set at the lower rate of £2.65 per hour for apprentices under the age of 19 or those over the age of 19 but in the first year of their apprenticeship. After this first year apprentices over the age of 19 are entitled to receive the standard rate of £4.98 up to age 20, and then £6.19 once they are aged 21 or over. If you work less than 38 hours per week then the minimum you should be paid in any event is £95 per week.
Other workplace rights that apprentices should enjoy include the right to work in a safe environment and the right to regular breaks and paid holiday, in line with those enjoyed by employees.
Female apprentices are also entitled to paid maternity leave, as well as paid time off during pregnancy to attend antenatal appointments, clinics or your GP. Parentcraft and relaxation sessions are included within the remit of antenatal care, although you may require a letter from your GP or midwife to confirm this.
Enforce your rights at work and in training
Apprentices often labour under the impression that they have fewer rights than full employees, and may in some circumstances be exploited as a result. It is vital that you know and understand your legal rights as an apprentice, but even if you do you must also be aware of how to best enforce those rights. In the first instance you should always speak to your apprenticeship provider. If you are unhappy to do, then take legal advice from a union representative, a free advice agency such as the Citizens Advice Bureau or an employment law solicitor.
This article for Eurojobs was contributed by