Recently, some apprentices have contacted us to say that they haven’t been treated fairly at work. This is concerning, not just for those apprentices and their employers, but for anyone who might want to do an apprenticeship in the future. Since the number of young people undertaking apprenticeships has dropped 20 per cent in the last year, Australia needs them more than ever.

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Both employers and employees need to reach an agreement where they can mutually benefit, otherwise the apprenticeship ultimately becomes a burden for both parties. We believe everybody has the right to fair work, so we’ve written this guide to help current and future apprentices find out what they should expect from employers.

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The Basic Entitlements

Apprentices must be afforded the same basic entitlements as all other employees: sick leave, annual leave, public holidays and breaks. Apprentices are also paid for the training they do at a Registered Trade Organisation (RTO), such as TAFE or trade school. Upon the beginning of employment, the apprentice and employer must come to an agreement on how regularly the apprentice will attend training.

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Pay

There are school-based apprenticeships, regular apprenticeships and adult apprenticeships (for people 21 years and older). A first-year apprentice carpenter should get a minimum award wage of $424.48 a week, but different types of apprenticeships and different trades will have different rates of pay. Each year you progress through your apprenticeship, rates of pay increase, and in some cases an apprentice can progress faster than yearly.

The Australian government’s pay calculator can help you figure out your award wage.

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Ending your apprenticeship

Whether you’re being dismissed or you’ve decided to leave your employer, you need to give each other notice. The minimum notice periods are as follows:

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One thing worth noting is that if you give more notice than required, your employer can choose to only let you work the minimum notice period. This means if you’re a first year apprentice and you give 4 weeks notice, your employer can say they only need you for 1 week.

Depending on your relationship with your employer, it might be worth waiting until the last week (or minimum notice period) comes along before quitting. The employer can also choose to pay out the notice period, rather than having the employee work.

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If you think you’ve been hard done by

If you think you’ve been treated unfairly by your employer, or your employer hasn’t honoured the legal requirements of the apprenticeship, you might want to check out the Fair Work Ombudsman’s website. Once you figure out the rules, you decide whether you want to make a claim against your employer.

As we said though, Australia needs more apprentices, so know your rights and dig in!

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If you want to know more about getting an apprenticeship, check out Australian Apprenticeships.

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