Can You Take on an Apprentice as a Sole Trader?

Written by Calvin Bowers

Wondering whether you can take on an apprentice as a sole trader? Have a look inside at our guide to taking on apprentices for your business.

The short answer is, yes!

A sole trader is anyone who works entirely independently, running their own business as a self-employed individual. If this is you, maybe it is time to think about taking on another pair of hands for support as we enter the new year. Many sole traders work in a skills-based sector such as carpentry or gardening; these sectors are perfectly suited to apprenticeships. They focus on a particular vocation that is best taught from a practical hands-on approach.

For example, suppose you are a sole-trader electrician. In that case, you could take on an apprentice who wants to train to be an electrician to work alongside you, whilst training for the correct qualification at a local college or with a training provider.

Sole traders even have options to avoid employing the apprentice directly.

The government has invested a lot in improving and expanding the quality and accessibility of apprenticeships. This means that taking on an apprentice as a sole trader could radically develop your business. However, one side effect of apprenticeships’ modernisation and standardisation is that you have to meet specific quality standards before taking on an apprentice as a sole trader.

Advice for Sole Traders Who Want to Employ an Apprentice

There are two options as to how to take on an apprentice. The first takes a few extra steps, but you remain in complete control.

There are some specific steps a sole trader must take if you want to take on an apprentice. Generally, taking on an apprentice is the same as taking on an employee, so you may have to set up any of the necessary accounts.

First, you must sign up to HMRC as an employer, which will give you an Accounts Office Reference number. Next, as you will pay the apprentice through the PAYE system, you will need to set up to make PAYE payments to HMRC. This can take some time for a first-time employer, but it is certainly possible.

Once this is all set up, you follow the same steps as any other business towards taking on an apprentice. These include finding the right apprenticeship to fill your business’ needs, finding the best training provider for that apprenticeship course, and then finding the right candidate to join your team. You can start by posting a job on our own apprenticeship jobs board!

If you do not want to officially employ anyone else but still want to take on an apprentice, there is one other option. This comes from using an Apprenticeship Training Agency. These agencies become the apprentice’s official employer and will arrange all training and other essential administration, but the apprentice will work in your organisation. A lot of sole traders prefer this option as it lets them retain their independence.

Apprenticeship Incentive Payment

As well as all the benefits of hiring an apprentice, the government are offering a brand new incentive payment to people who employ an apprentice up until 31 March 2021. You can use this payment for any organisational costs.

If you hire somebody aged 16-24, you will receive £2,000.

If you hire somebody 25 and over you will receive £1,500.

This incentive payment is on top of the £1,000 that employers already receive for hiring an apprentice. So, if you are a sole trader looking to expand your business, then taking on an apprentice could be a great way to fund a new project and find somebody who can learn from you.

For more information, take a look at our guide for employers, where you will find all you need to know about apprenticeships.

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Last Updated: Friday July 22 2022
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