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What are the legal obligations of taking on an apprentice?

I’ve been running a business in the construction industry for the last five years. I have three members of staff but have been toying with the idea of taking on an apprentice. What are the legal obligations of this, and what’s the best way to find a decent recruit?

Charlie Mullins writes:

Employing an apprentice who is under 18 does throw up a few extra rules you have to stick to, but my view has always been that giving youngsters a head start in life is well worth the effort. And of course by training them from a young age you end up with a qualified employee, with no bad habits, that you can trust to do things your way.

As with any job carried out by your employees, anything you ask an apprentice to do must involve a risk assessment being carried out first. In the eyes of the law under 18s are classed as ‘Young Workers’, and any risk assessment must take into account their young age and relative lack of life experience.

There’s a few more things to bear in mind, like not giving youngsters jobs they are unsuited to; not putting them in contact with dangerous chemical and other toxic materials; and not asking them to work long hours. But it’s mostly common sense stuff, which has never caused us any problems at Pimlico. 

Now when it comes to finding a decent young recruit, getting a good apprentice on board is no easier, or more difficult than employing any other staff. There isn’t a 100% sound formula, but I’ve always found the best young apprentices are often the sons and daughters of people I already have working for me.

The other place to look is your local college; most of the trainees there will already be working for someone, but there are always a few who don’t have a company employing them. What I do is talk to the tutors to find out which students need a job. The tutors can also tell you who has the best marks and which students have the best practical skills. Tutors also know who turns up to class regularly, which is something I always check when I’m looking for an apprentice.

Charlie Mullins is the managing director of  Pimlico Plumbers

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