With the apparent skilled labour shortage in the Australian workforce at the moment more small business owners are becoming aware of the benefits of taking on an apprentice.

Taking one or perhaps a number of apprentices into a business is mutually beneficial for all involved parties. The business is provided with a fresh canvas to train and educate into a valuable business asset, and the employee is provided with a unique opportunity to learn skills and techniques that can be applied in both the current position and through the rest of their working life.

It is understandable that one of the main concerns for small business owners when considering taking on an apprentice is related to the amount of administration and paperwork that is required to have an apprentice as part of the business structure.

As apprenticeships are such an integral part of the advancement of our skilled workforce the government has in place various support frameworks to make this process as easy as possible for both employers and employees of Australian Apprenticeships. The figurehead organisation responsible for the overseeing and regulation of Apprenticeship Agreements is the Australian Apprenticeship Centre. Each state or territory has their own local branch of the Centre that can be contacted regarding any aspect of apprentice employment, particularly as there are sometimes different requirements for the different regions.

Perhaps one of the most important things to remember upon initially hiring an apprentice is that it is the employer’s responsibility to formalise the registration of the apprenticeship agreement.

Employers have a responsibility to register any apprentices or trainees within 28 days of their employment. Failure to do so can result in breaches of the Workplace Relations Act 1996 as well as any relevant Award regulations that may apply.

If, as with the example below, the employer does not make the relevant organisations aware of the apprenticeship arrangement there can be consequences for those involved, and most importantly the business can suffer financially.

A recent verdict in the Federal Magistrates Court has seen a NSW bricklayer fined $18,000 for failing to register the apprenticeship of his employee.

The bricklayer incorrectly believed that it was the responsibility of the employee, not the employer, to formally register the apprenticeship arrangement.

As no apprenticeship was registered on this occasion the employee is legally entitled to receive adult wages in accordance with the relevant Award. Since the employer had been distributing wages on the provision that the employee was an apprentice this resulted in more than $7000 in entitlements being owed to the employee for the 8 month period that he was employed.

Whilst there are legal issues that do need to be addressed when hiring an apprentice they are not that difficult to apply if known.

If you are an employer or an employee and would like more information regarding your responsibilities in relation to apprenticeships or any other workplace legislation the lawyers at The Quinn Group are able to provide you with personalised advice on the necessary action for your situation. Contact us on 1300 QUINNS or click here to submit an online enquiry form.

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