Apprentice Working Hours – The Law on Maximum and Minimum Work Weeks

Apprenticeships open up a new world of experiences and opportunities for young workers. But there can be confusion around the legal working hours for this type of employee.

Apprentice operating a drop saw with supervisor overseeing

Different factors affect how many hours an apprentice can work such as age, college hours, and the apprenticeship they’re doing. However, apprentices have the same rights as other workers.

Every employer must ensure all working hours and breaks are in line with regulations. There are different rules in place for the youngest workers from those that apply to adults.

The rules protect all staff ensuring health and safety at work is always a top priority.

See also: Apprentice rights and entitlements guide.

Maximum Hours an Apprentice Can Work

Apprentice working hours vary depending on age. All young workers have restrictions on how many hours they can work in a day or week. They’re also entitled to longer breaks than adult workers.

Apprentice Working Hours Under 18

You can apply for an apprenticeship at school leaving age. Taking on apprentice work is regarded as a suitable extension to education for young workers in England.

The job will be a combination of both college and work. It is important to remember that contracts will vary with regards to study days and work days. However, employers mustn’t exceed the maximum working hours unless it cannot be avoided and it should never affect study days.

Under 18’s must not work any more than:-

  • 8 Hours Per Day
  • 40 Hours Per Week

Source: The Working Time Regulations 2002

Apprentice Working Hours Over 18

Apprentices aged over 18 have their working hours governed by the Working Time Regulations. The rules and regulations on hours of work and rest periods are the same as other workers.

Hours of work should not exceed:-

  • 8 Hours Per Day (averaged out over 17 weeks).
  • 48 Hours Per Week (averaged out over 17 weeks).

You can be asked to work more than 8 hours per day in a week. Over 17 weeks the average must not be higher than 8 a day. The same applies to the number of hours per week.

Minimum Working Hours

Apprenticeships must be a minimum length of 30 hours per week and should not exceed 40 hours. In some cases, workers may be able to do a part-time apprenticeship with a minimum of 16 hours per week.

Can an Apprentice Work Overtime?

Expected working hours should be set out either in a contract or what is called an apprenticeship agreement. Overtime is defined as anything over and above your normal hours.

If you are a young worker under the age of 18, then you should only be asked if all other options have been exhausted. Overtime should never affect your time away from studying and it should not be a regular occurrence.

What Counts Towards Working Hours For an Apprentice?

Any hours an apprentice spends at the work site and in college all count towards working hours. This will include apprentices who have been asked to sit Maths and English as part of their training.

Your contract will stipulate how your training will be taken. Some employers offer day release and others operate on alternative weeks. This involves doing one week of work and one week of study, and is called block release.

Apprenticeships can last anywhere from 1 year to 6 years so the studying times may change. It’s always important that your contract is updated and any changes to your working week agreed.

You can expect 20% of your normal working hours to be filled with college and study time. Study time can be in the workplace, at college, or online and will depend on the job itself.

Do Apprentices Get Paid for College Days?

Any time apprentices are required to be studying should be paid for as part of their working week agreement.

Employers who refuse to pay for these hours of study are breaking the law and this should be raised with HR or citizen’s advice.

Although a paid job, doing an apprenticeship means dedicating part of your time to learning and passing qualifications. This will be part of your job and therefore paid.

See Also: Apprentice Minimum Wage Rates – an overview of the rules on apprentice pay.

Rules on Start & Finish Times

Young workers have a restricted period which means they should not work during these hours due to working regulations.

This period is usually between 10pm and 6am although there are some exceptions to this rule. This includes businesses such as bakeries, postal services and restaurants. However, an apprentice under 18 cannot legally work between midnight and 4am.

This means apprentices under the age of 18 cannot do night shift work.

Break Entitlements for Apprentices

Apprentices over 18 are entitled to a 20 minute rest break if they work over 6 hours. This is in line with other employees.

Often employers give longer than this but they cannot shorten this. 20 minutes is the minimum that should be offered. Apprentices should also have 11 hours rest between shifts.

Apprentices under 18 are entitled to longer breaks. They should be given a 30 minute break when they’ve worked longer than 4.5 hours. They should also have 12 hours rest between shift.

Breaks should be taken during a shift, not at the beginning or end.

What is Minimum Wage for Apprentices?

The wage you can expect as an apprentice will depend on age and also year of apprenticeship.

Anyone aged 16 to 18 is entitled to the minimum wage which is currently £4.81 per hour. Your employer may pay above this but they cannot offer below the minimum wage.

If you are under 19 or in your first year you will receive £4.81 too. If you are 19 or over or have completed the first year of your apprenticeship then you can expect to get paid the minimum wage for your age band.

Further Information & Support


Are apprentices allowed to work more than 40 hours?

Apprentices can work over 40 hours on the odd occasion they are needed but this should only be as a last resort when all other avenues have been explored. If demand for the service is unusually high or there are staff shortages then you may on occasion be asked.

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