What are apprentices entitled to?

25 October 2021

An employer talking an apprentice through what they’re entitled to.

Apprenticeships are designed to give you hands-on experience in an industry and the chance to earn a qualification at the same time, all while earning a wage. Taking anything from one to five years to complete, they are open to anyone above the age of 16 who isn’t enrolled in full-time education.

There are a host of training programmes available in many different industries. In financial services for example, you can take your pick from apprenticeships in fields such as mortgage advice or paraplanning.

As an apprentice, you have a number of important rights. For example, your training programme must work towards an approved apprenticeship framework or standard, and it has to provide you with experience in a real job that gives you the chance to gain the knowledge and skills you need to pass your assessments. You will also receive a wage in line with your age, skills and experience.

Crucially, you’ll have the same rights as other employees working in similar roles or at similar grades. This applies to everything from paid holidays to pension schemes. Keep reading for a more in-depth look at a few of the key entitlements that come with an apprenticeship.

Are apprentices entitled to sick pay?

Providing you meet the relevant criteria, you are entitled to statutory sick pay (SSP) as an apprentice. To qualify for this pay, you must have an employment contract, have done some work under your contract, earn an average of at least £120 per week (accurate for the financial year 2021-22) and have been sick for four or more consecutive days. If you are off for seven days or more, you must provide proof of your illness.

In 2021-22, the weekly rate of SSP is £96.35, and this is available for up to 28 weeks. This money is paid for the days you would normally work but are unable to for medical reasons, and you will receive it on your normal payday, minus deductions for National Insurance and tax.

Can apprentices claim benefits?

To put it simply, yes – apprentices are eligible to claim benefits. However, which benefits you as an apprentice may be able to claim will depend on your circumstances. So long as you are on an approved apprenticeship programme and are working over 33 hours per week, you are entitled to the same benefits as any other full-time worker, employed in any other capacity. 

This means, if you are an apprentice that works over 33 hours per week, you are entitled to: 

 

  • Sick pay entitlement (as discussed above) 
  • At least 20 days’ paid holiday each year
  • Statutory maternity/paternity paid leave (discussed in more detail below)

 

As we will look at next, you may also be entitled to claim Universal Credit as an apprentice. This combined benefit may be needed if you require financial assistance when it comes to housing, bringing up your children, and/or living with a personal disability.

Are apprentices eligible for Universal Credit?

Yes – as an apprentice, you are entitled to claim Universal Credit (UC). However, there are some conditions and certain criteria you must meet first. In order to successfully claim as an apprentice, you must be able to demonstrate you are part of a recognised apprenticeship programme. To do this, you must be able to do the following:

 

  • Provide the name and contact details of your training provider
  • Be on a programme that sees you working towards a recognised qualification
  • Prove that you are paid at least the National Minimum Wage for an apprenticeship 

 

Although some Universal Credit applicants must meet certain limits on their working hours in order to successfully claim, this is not true for apprentices. With this in mind, if you are applying for UC, you will be asked to agree to a ‘claimant commitment’. This document will outline how many hours per week you complete as part of your apprenticeship programme. If you spend more than 30 hours per week at your apprenticeship, you will not be asked to look for additional work. However, if your apprenticeship takes up fewer than 30 hours a week, you may be asked to look for part-time work in order to claim UC. It is important to note, however, that this rule may not apply to those with a registered disability, illness, or specialist childcare commitments.

Do apprentices pay council tax?

As a rule of thumb, apprentices do have to pay council tax as normal. However, just as some students are exempt from paying local council tax, there are some exceptions. If you can prove that you live in a household made up of only apprentices, students and/or trainees, for example, you can apply for a 50 per cent discount on your total charge. To apply for this, you’ll have to get in touch with your local council and follow their specific instructions for providing all necessary information and evidence. 

Are apprentices entitled to maternity pay?

As an apprentice, you’re entitled to maternity leave and pay in the same way as other employees. Statutory maternity leave in the UK is 52 weeks. The first 26 of these are classified as ‘ordinary maternity leave’, while the remaining 26 are referred to as ‘additional maternity leave’. There’s no requirement to take the full period off, but you do have to take a minimum of two weeks after your child is born (or four weeks if your apprenticeship is in a factory).

Statutory maternity pay is available for up to nearly 10 months (39 weeks). For the first six weeks, you’ll receive 90 per cent of your average weekly pre-tax earnings. After this, you’ll get either 90 per cent of your average weekly earnings or £151.97 (2021/22), whichever is lower. As with SSP, the money is paid to you in the same way as your wages, with National Insurance and tax deducted.

The earliest you can start maternity leave is 11 weeks before your due date, unless your baby is born early.

Are apprentices entitled to a pension?

Pension planning may not be foremost in your mind if you’re just getting started in your career with the help of an apprenticeship, but it’s important to be aware of your rights when it comes to these investments. If you’re employed as an apprentice, you’re entitled to be enrolled into a pension scheme as long as you meet the auto-enrolment conditions. A government initiative, auto-enrolment is designed to ensure that all employers put certain workers into a pension if they don’t already have one. The employer makes contributions to this fund, and usually the employee will be required to as well.

If you’re 22 or older and you earn over £10,000 a year (2021/22), your employer has to automatically enrol you in a pension.

As these points highlight, apprentices enjoy many of the same rights as regular employees. This is one of the reasons why the training programmes are popular among those looking to expand their knowledge and skills and further their careers.

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