Changes to Apprenticeships
The new provisions relating to apprenticeships in England came into force on 26 May 2015 (by virtue of section 6 of the Deregulation Act 2015 (Commencement No. 1 and Transitional Saving Provisions) Order 2015 (SI 2015/994)). This amends the existing apprenticeship framework under the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009 (ASCLA 2009) by replacing apprenticeships under ASCALA 2009 with English Apprenticeships in England but not in Wales.
This reform is designed to simplify the existing statutory arrangements already in place and allow employers to design apprenticeship standards for their own sectors.
Under these new provisions an “approved English apprenticeship agreement” is an agreement which:
Provides for an individual to work as an apprentice in a sector for which the Secretary of State has published an approved apprenticeship standard.
Provides for the apprentice to receive training in order to assist the apprentice to achieve the approved apprenticeship standard in the work done under the agreement.
Satisfies any other conditions specified by the Secretary of State in regulations.
An approved English apprenticeship will either take place under an "approved English apprenticeship agreement" or will be an "alternative English apprenticeship".
The Commencement Order provides that work done by apprentices on "Trailblazer" apprenticeships (employer-designed apprenticeships) will be recognised as part of an approved English apprenticeship and treated as approved English apprenticeship standards.
Each apprenticeship standard has an assessment plan produced by ‘Trailblazers’ (employer-led groups) that are developing the standards. These standards must then be published by the Secretary of State and must relate to the sectors of work to which apprenticeships apply. Each standard must set out the outcomes that persons seeking to complete an approved English apprenticeship are expected to achieve.
Sectors for which standards have already been published by the Secretary of State include:
Energy and utilities
Food and drink
Alternative English Apprenticeships
An alternative English apprenticeship is an arrangement under which a person works, which is of a kind described in regulations made by the Secretary of State.
Arrangements which are classed as alternative English apprenticeships include cases where a person:
- works otherwise than for another person;
- works otherwise than for reward.
Status of the agreement
As was previously the case with apprenticeship agreements, an approved English apprenticeship will be treated as a contract of service and is specifically not a contract of apprenticeship.
Where an agreement which satisfies the conditions for an approved English apprenticeship agreement also contains an inconsistent provision, that inconsistent provision is to be treated as having no effect.
Variation of an approved apprenticeship agreement
An employer who wishes to vary an approved apprenticeship agreement in such a way that it no longer satisfies one or more of the conditions for an approved English apprenticeship agreement, must give the apprentice written notice. The written notice must explain that, if the variation takes effect, the agreement will cease to be an approved English apprenticeship agreement. If an agreement is varied without giving the apprentice the requisite notice, the variation has no effect.
This change will allow employers more flexibility in terms of setting standards within their sectors.
The amendments do not apply to apprenticeships in Wales. Chapter 1 of ASCLA 2009 (renamed as "Apprenticeships: Wales)" sets out the previous statutory framework for apprenticeship agreements, which continues to apply in Wales.
Separate provisions apply to agreements for Crown Servants, Parliamentary staff and the military.
In the absence of regulations setting out more detailed conditions, it is to be assumed that approved English apprenticeship agreements should contain the basic terms of employment required to be given to employees under section 1 of the Employment Rights Act 1996.
Where someone has already entered into an apprenticeship agreement in connection with a recognised English framework (which will be prior to 26 May 2015 because frameworks in England will be phased out in favour of standards after that date), this will continue to be valid and subject to the old completion conditions.