News & Views

11th June 2021

Apprentice Myth Busters

By NECA Workplace Relations Team

Apprentice pay and conditions, performance management, termination and redundancies are just some of the areas in which NECA’s Workplace Relations team provides guidance and support.

There are a number of myths surrounding apprentices within the electrotechnology and broader construction industry. Many of these myths are erroneous and when companies conduct operations on the basis of these myths, it can result in costly underpayment and unfair or unlawful termination claims.

Below are some of the common myths our Workplace Relations team have encountered:  

1. “I do not have to pay for an apprentice to attend trade school if they agree not to be paid.”

False. An apprentice must be paid for all time spent at trade school and this time is included in the apprentice’s ordinary hours of work (e.g. 38 hours). An agreement cannot lawfully be made which removes this obligation. 

Payment obligations for School-based apprentices are slightly different and you can read more about this via the following link: https://www.fairwork.gov.au/find-help-for/apprentices-and-trainees/apprentice-entitlements.  

2. “I can use my apprentice’s leave entitlements for the time that they are at trade school if they agree to this arrangement.”

False. All time spent at trade school is to be paid as time worked and apprentices should not be coerced or forced into using their leave entitlements (e.g. annual leave) in order to ‘make up’ their hours. The rules that apply to your other employees, for requesting and taking leave, applies to your apprentices. 

3. “If I ‘terminate’ an apprentice on completion of the apprenticeship and re-engage them as a full-time (or part-time) Electrician, I can pay out their annual leave at the apprentice rate and start the accrual again at the higher rate.”

False. If you make the decision to keep an apprentice on at the end of their apprenticeship, their service with the Company continues and therefore the annual leave accrual (among other entitlements) will continue to accrue.

If the Employee has an excess of leave balance you may be able to request that they take some leave prior to (or soon after) moving into the new role, depending on the Modern Award or Enterprise Agreement that applies. 

4. “If I ‘terminate’ an apprentice on completion of the apprenticeship and re-engage them as a full-time (or part-time) Electrician, the period of their apprenticeship will not count towards their continuous service.”

False. The period of an apprenticeship will count towards the Employee’s continuous service with the Company when they maintain employment with the Company after their apprenticeship. This is important when calculating entitlements (e.g. long service leave) and for matters pertaining to termination such as notice and severance pay, in instances of redundancy.

5. “I can employ young workers to help out on site as ‘trainees’ or ‘apprentices’ without lodging any formal paperwork.”

False. Employers must lodge a registered training contract for an Employee to lawfully be able to pay trainee or apprentice rates. An Employer cannot pay an Employee trainee or apprentice rates just because they are young or new to the job.

For further information and guidance in this area please contact NECA Victoria’s Workplace Relations team on 1300 300 031 or workplace.relations@neca.asn.au.

Download Apprentice Myth Busters Flyer here