Rights and obligations

Taking on apprentices or trainees is a great way to update the skills of your company – but only if you’re committed to giving them real opportunities to make a contribution. This means taking on all the rights and obligations associated with employing apprentices and trainees. 

Employers must meet industrial relations requirements for all staff, plus the extra obligations that come with signing a training contract with an apprentice or trainee. It’s important to get familiar with these responsibilities. Getting it right can mean managing a happy and mutually beneficial apprenticeship or traineeship. Getting it wrong can lead to penalties.

Employers should also be committed to the full apprenticeship or traineeship outlined in the training contract. If this is impractical for you and your business, you might consider alternative recruitment options, such as employing out-of-trade apprentices or trainees, or going through a Group Training Organisation (GTO).

Here’s an overview of the basic rights and obligations of employers:

A group of 4 workers enjoying pizzas together in the office

Get your apprentice or trainee officially signed up

You and your apprentice or trainee must sign up to a formal training contract within 14 days of employment. This way everyone knows what their responsibilities are, and the apprentice or trainee is correctly registered. After signing, employers can pay apprentice or trainee wages, and your apprentice or trainee can enrol in formal training.

Get in touch with an  Australian Apprenticeship Support Network (AASN) provider in your area to conduct the sign-up. They can tell you and your apprentice or trainee about your roles and responsibilities, outline any relevant incentives, and may also be able to help with finding an apprentice or trainee if you’re still recruiting.

Apprentices and trainees generally have a probation period built into their training contract, which you should discuss with them – and your AASN – when they sign up. This allows the employer or apprentice or trainee to cancel the training contract if the training arrangement is not working out. After the probationary period,:

  • for apprentices, both you and your apprentice must agree before the contract can be cancelled
  • for trainees, either you or your trainee may choose to cancel the contract.

Cancelling the training contract should always be a last resort. If, as an employer, you think the training arrangement is at risk you must let the apprenticeships regulator, the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority  know within five days.

Remember that cancelling a training contract is not the same as cancelling an employment contract. You may have separate obligations under your industrial arrangements (such as a Modern Award) when it comes to terminating employment. If unsure, you should contact the Fair Work Ombudsman .

 Providing support and supervision for your apprentice or trainee  throughout their apprenticeship or traineeship is vital. Your apprentice or trainee needs to be supervised so they can  work safely and learn the skills of their trade or vocation. Not only does this ensure you are meeting your obligations as an employer but also helps the apprentice or trainee engage with your business and stay enthusiastic about their learning journey. Close supervision will also help you to identify and address any potential issues early on. More information on supervising your apprentice can be found here .

Group of young people in technical vocational training with teacher

On-the-job training and off-the-job training

You and your apprentice or trainee will also have to agree to a training plan – along with the relevant Registered Training Organisation (RTO). This generally covers off the timing, location and type of training needed for them to complete their qualification, and for you to meet your business needs.

You must provide on-the-job training that gives your apprentice or trainee the opportunity to learn skills related to their trade or profession. This training must be provided by a suitably qualified or experienced person in appropriate facilities. It needs to include hands-on experience in a wide range of tasks, covering all competencies set out in their training plan – including how to use the tools, equipment and technology commonly found in their trade or occupation.

Off-the-job training will be provided by a Registered Training Organisation (RTO), usually a Victorian TAFE institute. As an employer, you must make sure your apprentice or trainee is properly enrolled and receiving the correct training. You’ll also need to allow them leave to attend off-the-job training.

Maintain employment standards

Just like any other worker, apprentices and trainees are covered by workplace laws relating to employment standards, safety and bullying. So as well as meeting the specific obligations laid out in the training contract for your apprentice or trainee, you must also ensure your business maintains these wider standards.

Apprentices and trainees are often young and inexperienced and may be unable to identify or manage issues in the workplace. That’s why it’s particularly important for employers to be aware of their obligations under law. See the Fair Work Ombudsman to keep up to date with Australian workplace laws.

The National Employment Standards (NES) outlines minimum employment entitlements for all employees. You need to give all employees (including apprentices or trainees) a copy of the NES – and make sure your business complies with these standards. 

Maintaining a safe working environment includes physical and mental health and covers all employees in your business. Again, be mindful of how these broader obligations relate to your apprentices or trainees. Inexperienced workers may not understand the consequences of unsafe behaviour, or how to identify risk factors for mental health. WorkSafe Victoria has resources you can use to make sure your work environment is safe for everyone.

Engineer installing underfloor heating system smiling to the camera

Want more info?

The Victorian Registration & Qualifications Authority has a handy checklist to make sure you’re meeting regulatory requirements.

The National Code of Good Practice for Australian Apprenticeships is a good guide to the responsibilities of employers to apprentices and trainees. 

The Fair Work Ombudsman has resources for organisations employing apprentices and trainees.