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Many New Zealand businesses and employers take on apprentices, and for good reason. Hiring an apprentice can inject energy and new thinking into your business. It also provides an opportunity to train a new worker at the start of their career. However, there are some legal considerations to note for any employer thinking about hiring an apprentice. This article will cover three legal considerations for hiring apprentices, including:

  • the need for a training agreement and training plan;
  • minimum age and age discrimination considerations; and 
  • understanding the training wage.

Training Plans and the Training Organisation

When taking on an apprentice, it is essential to consider their training and development needs. Likewise, you should have a plan in place for how your business can meet those needs. Treating this as a fully on-the-job exercise may be tempting. However, there needs to be some forward planning and thinking about the apprentice’s training overall. 

All apprentices must enrol themselves in an accredited industry training program, approved by the New Zealand Qualification Authority (NZQA). In addition, apprenticeship employment agreements should include an outline of a training plan detailing what the apprentice will be doing and how the business will be helping to develop their skills. 

Also, you should develop this agreement before the apprentice actually starts work. Then, depending on the training organisation, you and your business might be able to access support on what kinds of tasks you should be offering an apprentice. There will be industry standards and norms about what skills an apprentice should have at different stages of their development. 

Minimum Age and Age Discrimination

There are some interesting legal considerations when it comes to age and hiring apprentices in your business. One consideration is the minimum age. When you are hiring an apprentice, they must be 16 years old or older. If they are younger than 16, your business cannot hire them as an apprentice. However, you could offer other training and development opportunities.

Another legal consideration is age discrimination. When you are recruiting for new apprentices, and particularly when there is a competitive recruitment process, you should ensure that your business does not discriminate based on the apprentice’s age. For example, you must treat a prospective apprentice that is older or shifting from another career the same as younger candidates. Further, it is against the law to discriminate against older candidates based on their age.

The Training Wage

A final important consideration for employers hiring apprentices is the training wage. The training wage, currently $16.00 per hour. In certain situations, your business can pay an apprentice this amount instead of the adult minimum wage ($20.00). Typically, this is when you have an apprentice aged 20 years or over completing an industry training program and apprenticeship with your business. However, the training wage is only relevant for a limited period of time while the apprentice is getting to grips with the role. Therefore, it is best practice to engage an employment lawyer. They can assist you in determining how the law applies to your business.

Note that whether or not an apprentice is on a training wage or not is not relevant from the perspective of their employment rights. Besides being paid a lower wage, an apprentice on the training wage has the same fundamental rights and responsibilities as other employees. 

Key Takeaways

Hiring an apprentice is an exciting step for many New Zealand businesses and tradespeople. However, there are legal considerations to think about and plan for when contemplating taking on an apprentice. These include your business’s training and development obligations, including developing a sufficient training plan for the apprentice. You should also be conscious of age-related laws, including the minimum age of 16 age-based discrimination. Finally, the training wage can be paid to apprentices in most cases for a limited period of time. However, other than the training wage, apprentices have the same rights as other employees.

For more information about hiring apprentices in your business, contact LegalVision’s employment lawyers on 0800 005 570 or complete the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you hire an apprentice on an unaccredited training program?

Apprentices must enrol themselves in an approved training program for their industry, per the New Zealand Qualifications Authority. You can check the NZQA website for any further details and questions about specific programs and specific industries.

What is age discrimination when hiring apprentices?

It is against the law to discriminate against a job applicant based on their age. In the context of hiring an apprentice, this may occur when there is an older or more mature applicant when the business is expecting to hire a younger apprentice. Therefore, it is vital to take job applicants on their merits and not discriminate based on age.

What is the training wage?

The training wage is currently $16.00, less than the adult minimum wage of $20.00. Your business can pay this amount in situations where apprentices are over 20 and starting in their careers.

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