Apprentices in the hospitality and catering sector deliver an average positive net gain of £5896 per annum to their employer – 3 times more than in other sectors, according to a report by the Centre for Economics and Business Research.

Not only could you enjoy this financial benefit by employing apprentices, but research suggests customers are more likely to support businesses with apprentices as they are seen as contributing to society.  Employing apprentices is also a good way of combating the issues of staff retention and skills shortages which face the hospitality sector and many are highly motivated. It is often an effective way to grow future leaders and managers from within.

Modern apprenticeships

A modern apprenticeship is a work-based training programme lasting between one and four years and leading to nationally recognised qualifications. In most cases the training element is provided by a college or training provider.  Apprenticeships are open to anyone over the age of 16, with the minimum duration for an apprenticeship for 16 to 18 year olds being 12 months. For apprentices aged 19 and over their apprenticeship will have to last between one and four years, unless they have undertaken prior learning or attainment.

As the employer of an apprentice you should note they have the same rights as other employees, with time off for study.

Pay levels

Apprentices will usually work for 30 hours per week and are entitled to be paid the minimum wage for their work. If they are under 19, or are over 19 but in their first year of training, they will be paid the apprentice rate of £3.40 per hour.


Apprenticeships allow apprentices to develop skills through a combination of work with day release training. The Apprenticeship Levy will change the way in which training is funded from April 2017 – see Freeths’ guide on the Levy.

The Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009 gives apprentices the right to time off work for study or training if the purpose is to improve (a) the employee’s effectiveness in the employer’s business, and (b) the performance of the employer’s business.


There are two types of apprentice contract, an ‘Apprentice Agreement’ and a ‘Contract of Apprenticeship’. Both types of contract are for a fixed term and/or until a certain level of qualification is reached.

Apprenticeship Agreements

The Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009 introduced the Apprenticeship Agreement, under which an individual must be employed after 6 April 2012, and without which no Apprenticeship certificate can be issued.

Apprenticeship Agreements are very similar to a contract of employment, and an apprentice will be treated as being an ‘employee’ provided he or she is working under an Apprenticeship Agreement. For example, an apprentice engaged under an Apprenticeship Agreement can be dismissed in the same way as any other employee and is entitled to holiday and maternity leave.

An Apprenticeship Agreement must:

  • Contain a written statement of the particulars of employment for the purposes of section 1 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 (or be a written document in the form of a contract of employment or letter of engagement
  • Include a statement of the skill, trade or occupation for which the apprentice is being trained under the apprenticeship framework
  • State that the agreement is governed by the law of England and Wales
  • State that it is entered into in connection with a qualifying apprenticeship framework

Failure to include all of the relevant provisions which are needed to qualify as an Apprenticeship Agreement could result in a court or tribunal finding that a Contract of Apprenticeship has been entered into instead.  If you engage apprentices it is important that you use a contract that has been specifically drafted for an apprentice, rather than one that has been drafted for an ‘ordinary’ employee.

A useful template can be found at:

Specific legal advice should always be obtained to ensure that you comply with your obligations.

Contracts of Apprenticeship

Contracts of Apprenticeship are used where an apprentice is employed in the traditional way where a master agreed to educate and train the apprentice for a particular skilled trade and the apprentice in turn bound himself to the master agreeing to serve and work for the master obeying all reasonable directions.

Points to note:

  • A Contract of Apprenticeship does not need to be in a particular form.
  • Contracts of Apprenticeship are more onerous for employers than Apprenticeship Agreements in that the contract cannot be terminated before the end of the fixed term except in exceptional circumstances, such as in cases of gross misconduct or where the employer completely closes down the business or where there is a fundamental change in the character of the business. It is, therefore, harder to make an apprentice who is engaged under a Contract of Apprenticeship redundant in the usual way or to dismiss them.
  • Where such a contract is wrongly terminated the apprentice would be entitled to compensation for loss of wages for the remainder of the term and could be entitled to the value of lost training and the reduction in their future employment prospects. Such compensation could be substantial. Specific legal advice should always be obtained before seeking to dismiss an apprentice.
  • Employers should take advice before taking on an apprentice other than in accordance with an apprenticeship framework. Apprentices taken on in a more traditional way can be difficult and expensive to dismiss.  In addition no funding is available to the employer for their training and there will be no Apprenticeship certificate at the end.

Obligations when employing apprentices

Apprentices are treated as employees whether employed under an Apprenticeship Agreement or under a Contract of Apprenticeship and, therefore, have the same rights as any other type of employee.

It is important to remember that the Working Time Regulations 1998 contains special rules which apply to young workers, i.e. those under the age of 18 but over compulsory school age.

It is important also to remember that special health and safety rules apply to young persons, i.e. those under the age of 18. Employers who offer work to a young person are required to carry out a risk assessment before the person starts the employment or placement, which should take into account their inexperience, lack of awareness of risks and immaturity.

The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the present time and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.