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The apprentice

8 February 2016

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It’s become increasingly popular to hire younger workers in a bid to open new opportunities for them and employers. However, there are certain laws that need to be adhered to

Workplace experts, The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS), has guidance specifically for managers who may not be very familiar with the age-related laws in place for protecting young people, including apprentices.
Although the recent figures showing a fall in youth unemployment is great news, it can be easy to overlook what happens when young people first arrive in the workplace.
ACAS is there for employers and employees, so it is equally important to provide support, advice and training services for managers of young people.
ACAS research1 shows that the way inexperienced workers are welcomed and managed from the outset can make a big difference to the development of their ‘psychological contract’ with an employer. This has knock-on effects for engagement, motivation and ultimately productivity and turnover.
Yet there is surprisingly little guidance available on settling in inexperienced workers and providing them with opportunities to develop and flourish.
As more employers start to engage with younger workers we can expect that this will become an increasingly important issue.
ACAS’ guide Managing future talent (see resources), jointly produced with the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and Unionlearn contains tips, techniques and strategies drawn from the direct practical insights of managers and young people.
A wide range of sectors and sizes of organisations have contributed to the guide and it is interesting that some common themes emerge across the board. For example, it highlights the value of a good induction and providing ongoing support through a mentor, buddy, or wider peer networks in the workplace.
Of course, there isn’t any single ‘magic formula’ for successfully integrating young people into a workplace.

Legal side
The main points that employers should be aware of when employing younger workers (16-17 years) concern the law and include:
l Giving them the correct amount of time off each week: younger workers are entitled to two days off per week, which is double the amount for older workers (over 18 years of age) in the Working Time Regulations (see Resources).
l Paying them properly: most workers over school leaving age (16-17) will be entitled to receive the national minimum wage. ACAS has an online tool available if you are unsure about what you should be paying (see Resources).
l Ensuring they work the right hours: younger workers will not normally work more than eight hours a day or 40 hours a week (see Resources).
l Following the rules on work-based training: young people must stay in education or training at least part-time until they are 18 years old.
It’s important to be aware that work-based training such as apprenticeships needs to be more than 20 hours a week (see Resources).
l Think first, does your business involve night work: under 18s are not usually allowed to work at night but exceptions can apply in some circumstances. For example, if they are employed in a hospital or similar places of work, or in areas such as advertising, sporting or cultural activities. Young workers may work between 10pm or 11pm to midnight and between 4am to 6- or 7am if they are employed in particular industries, or when the work is necessary to maintain continuity of service or respond to demand for services.
ACAS’ guide Employing young people outlines the additional special protections that are set out in the working time regulations to protect apprentices and workers under the age of 18.
It will help businesses avoid common pitfalls including not paying enough and encouraging working hours that are too long.
The particular stumbling blocks for employers tend to be around age and what’s classed as ‘young’ in the eyes of the law; working hours and whether these are the same for everyone; the rules when hiring apprentices; and holiday or pay entitlement.

Age matters
There is a number of age-related employment laws specifically to protect young people, including apprentices. (Younger workers refers to 16-17 year olds.)
Some key points:
l Younger workers are entitled to two days off per week.
l They need a daily rest break of 12 consecutive hours (the break between finishing work one day and starting work the next).
l They require a rest break of at least 30 minutes if the working day lasts more than four point five hours.
l Younger workers normally will not work more than eight hours a day or 40 hours a week.
l Younger workers don’t normally work at night – however, there are some exceptions.
l A worker aged 16-17 is entitled to be paid at least the national minimum wage at the relevant rate.
Money talks
l Most workers over school leaving age will be entitled to receive the national minimum wage.  
l Young people must be paid the rate for their age, this includes, 16-17 year olds who are above school leaving
age but under 18, and apprentices under 19.

Holidays and working hours
l When it comes to holiday entitlement all workers are entitled to at least the statutory annual leave allowance of five point six days of their working week.
l Normally, younger workers (16 and 17 year olds) are entitled to 12 hours of uninterrupted rest within a 24-hour period in which they work. If a shift last longer than four and a half hours then they will be entitled to a break of 30 minutes.
l They are entitled to two days off per week and these cannot be averaged over a two-week period, and they should be consecutive days. These workers do not normally work for more than 40 hours per week.

ACAS guidance on hiring apprentices
Apprentices can be anyone over the age of 16 and not in full-time education. Apprenticeships can be for school leavers or those who are seeking to start a new career. Many of the special protections for young workers in the working time regulations will apply to apprentices.
Apprenticeships are work-based training programmes, which will lead to a nationally recognised qualification.
As employees, apprentices would normally be expected to work for at least 30 hours per week, for which employers can receive funding from the National Apprentice Service, however, funding will depend on the sector and the age of the apprentice.

Time off for studies
Apprenticeships are work-based training programmes, which will lead to a nationally recognised qualification. Apprentices will normally attend day release at local colleges or specialist training providers as part of their training, which can take between one to four years to complete, depending on the level of apprenticeship.

Becoming permanent
This depends on the employment status and employment contact, so it is best to check. If you’re unsure you can ring the ACAS helpline for free advice on 03001231100.

Jill Coyne, ACAS workplace expert.

Managing future talent
Working Time Regulations
ACAS online help tool
ACAS Working hours
ACAS Apprentices

1 ACAS. (accessed 19 January 2016).