Working time and time off to study

This information is designed for use by union reps. If you are an apprentice, see our How much do apprentices get paid? in our information and resources for apprentices.

All apprenticeships should have a clear balance between time spent working, time spent learning while working (on-the-job), and time away from the immediate workplace to study (off-the-job).

Are guidelines available?

In 2011, the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and the National Apprenticeship Service published the Specification for Apprenticeship Standards in England (SASE). The SASE sets out requirements that all apprenticeships must comply with:

  • All apprenticeship schemes must contain a minimum of 280 'guided learning hours' within a 12-month period.
  • At least 100 guided learning hours must be delivered away from the workstation (or at least 30%, if the total guided learning hours is more than 280 hours).
  • All guided learning hours must be clearly evidenced.

How much time is spent away from the workplace?

The SASE is clear that off-the-job training must be carried out away from the immediate workplace. However, different apprenticeship schemes interpret off-the-job training differently. The amount of time spent in college varies from one apprenticeship framework to another, and from one employer to another. Some frameworks include one day’s release per week to attend college, others as little as half a day per fortnight. Some colleges send tutors to the workplace, so that most of the learning takes place at work.

What's considered best practice?

Union reps should consider the following points of best practice when negotiating apprenticeship programmes:

  • 'Off workstation' should mean either college-based learning, or access to a quiet area in the workplace that is away from the distractions and demands of the job.
  • The provider should be consulted about the amount of time the apprentice will spend in college, as well as the amount of time for study in the workplace.
  • The employer should consider allowing time off for both the apprentice and mentor, for mentoring sessions and informal discussions.
  • Employers should note that workers under the age of 18 must not work for more than 8 hours per day or 40 hours per week.
  • Young workers should have a rest break of 30 minutes every 4.5 hours, 12 consecutive hours’ daily rest, and 48 hours’ rest every 7days.
  • Under the Working Time Regulations, young workers (under 18) should not work between 10pm and 6am (except in very specific circumstances).

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