Sometimes, one pair of hands just isn’t enough, and having another person with you can cut a job’s time in half. Whether you need some extra help, or want to give a hand to the younger generation, taking on an apprentice as a sole trader can be a great way to do it. Although, you may be wondering if you’re even allowed to. 

Yes, you are. 

In this article, we’re going to look at:

  • What is an apprentice?
  • How start taking on an apprentice as a sole trader
  • Why should you hire an apprentice?
  • What’s off-the-job training?
  • How can Countingup help?

What is an apprentice?

An apprentice is a person aged 16 or older, who works while studying to gain knowledge and experience in a specific field. It used to be that apprenticeships were only for vocational jobs (like carpentry, plumbing, or construction). Now though, you can take an apprenticeship in almost anything, including business, media and publishing, or administration and law. 

How to start taking on an apprentice as a sole trader

Before you hire an apprentice, it’s important to know that an apprenticeship must last at least one year. Depending on their level, this can stretch to a maximum of five years. Due to labour laws, an apprentice must be paid at least minimum wage

If an apprentice has completed their first year, and is at least 19 years old, then they are entitled to the minimum wage for their age, rather than the listed apprentice wage.

If the apprentice will be your first employee, you’re going to need to register as an employer with HMRC, and set up PAYE to pay both income tax and national insurance contributions for the apprentice. 

If you feel that this process is too complicated, you can contact an approved apprenticeship training agency. This way, you can get an apprentice without any of the additional admin. The apprentice will still work for your company, but be paid by the agency. 

There are several steps to hiring an apprentice:

  1. Choose an apprenticeship to offer
  2. Find a training provider
  3. Check the available funding for training
  4. Advertise the apprenticeship
  5. Choose your apprentices

Once you’ve selected your apprentice, you’ll have to write up and sign an apprenticeship agreement and a commitment statement. Hiring an apprentice can be confusing, so it’s best to frequently refer to the government website throughout the process. This way, you can ensure that you’re following each step exactly. 

Why should you hire an apprentice?

Hiring an apprentice comes with its own list of perks. 

Government grants

One bonus is that you’ll receive government grants for hiring an apprentice. The government offers £1,000 per apprentice, subject to conditions. If they’re between 16 and 18, or under 25 with an education, health and care plan, or have been in a local authority’s care. 

More recently, the government is also offering an additional £3,000 grant to registered employers. You can be eligible for this grant if any apprentices start employment between the 1st of October 2021 and the 31st of January 2022. The employee must also begin their apprenticeship between the 1st of October 2021 and the 31st of March 2022.

In order to receive the full payment, your apprentice must stay in employment and their course for one full year. You can apply for the grant between the 11th of January 2022 and the 15th of May 2022. 

While these grants won’t entirely cover the cost of hiring an apprentice, it does make it more accessible to build and develop your team.

Shaping the next generation of workers

By taking on an apprentice as a sole trader, you get to pass on your knowledge and experience to the next generation. While challenging, this can also be a deeply rewarding experience. You may even find that during their apprenticeship, they come up with new, innovative ideas on tackling certain issues. 

Improve your efficiency

Hiring an apprentice can be a great way to improve your company’s efficiency. In the 2017 evaluation, 78% of employers said that having apprentices boosted productivity. If you’re finding it difficult to maintain your workload alone, hiring an apprentice could be a great, cost-effective solution. 

What’s off-the-job training?

Apprentices aren’t the same as standard employees. Since they are still learning, they also get paid off-the-job training included in their ‘working hours’. At least 20% of these hours will be off-site, learning with the training provider you selected. 

Their training can happen in three ways, depending on your location and required learning. 

  • Day release (one day a week at the training location)
  • Block release (several weeks spent at the training site)
  • At your location (the trainer comes to your workplace) 

This means that on certain days, you may not have the additional support you may have become used to. The exact details of their off-site training are decided as part of the Commitment Statement, so you can plan their absence ahead of time. 

How can Countingup help?

Financial management can be stressful and time-consuming when you’re self-employed. That’s why thousands of business owners use the Countingup app to make their financial admin easier. 

Countingup is the business current account with built-in accounting software that allows you to manage all your financial data in one place. With features like invoicing on the go, receipt capture tools, tax estimates, and cash flow insights, you can confidently keep on top of your business finances wherever you are. 

You can also share your bookkeeping with your accountant instantly without worrying about duplication errors, data lags or inaccuracies. Seamless, simple, and straightforward! 

Start your three-month free trial today. Find out more here.