21 March 2021

Danny Done, managing director of Portfolio Payroll, discusses the requirements and implications

In July 2020, the government announced that it would be reforming and expanding the traineeships programme to help young people in England, regardless of background, who are most at risk of unemployment due to the coronavirus pandemic. This new scheme opened in September 2020.

To accompany this reformed traineeship initiative, employers can now, as of 27 January 2021, apply for a £1,000 traineeship incentive grant for a maximum of ten placements completed between 1 September 2020 up to and including 31 July 2021.

Traineeships were introduced in 2013 to offer education, training, and work experience to young people who may lack certain skills and experiences that employers look for in job applicants. Their aim is to provide young people with a pathway into employment or further education. The core target group for traineeships in 2020 to 2021 are those who are not employed, have little work experience, are aged between 16–24, and have up to, and including, a full level 3 qualification (equivalent to A-Level qualifications). Trainees must also be perceived to have a reasonable chance, based on the employer’s belief, of getting into employment within six months of completing the traineeship.

Employers can benefit from this traineeship scheme in a number of ways. Other than the incentive grant (explained below), traineeships are flexible because they can be industry specific and tailored to the employer’s business needs as well as the needs of the trainee. Traineeships also offer an employer’s current workforce the opportunity to gain, or improve on, training and mentorship skills, and may help with increasing overall workplace productivity.

Other factors that may encourage employers to participate in the scheme are that traineeships are both government-funded and can be completed in conjunction with a training provider. Training providers may be necessary because traineeships are expected to involve classroom-based tuition in maths, English, digital skills, and CV writing. These can be organised by a training provider if employers themselves are not qualified to offer this to trainees. Whilst employers will work together with training providers to complete each traineeship, their main role is to provide trainees with ‘high-quality’ seventy hours (minimum) of unpaid work experience.


...traineeships are flexible because they can be industry specific and tailored to the employer’s business needs...


Employers are not under any legal obligation to pay their trainees for the work experience hours they undertake, meaning that trainees are exempt from national minimum wage rules. However, employers may decide to pay their trainees if they wish and can decide on the amount. Since a trainee is not technically ‘employed’, they are also not entitled to any of the statutory employment rights afforded to employees and workers, such as rights to paid annual leave and sick pay, etc.

Employers and their training provider will need to agree on the days the trainee will work and how the programme will be delivered. Programmes can be tailored specifically to each young person and adjusted to make sure that both the employer and the trainees get the most out of it. The government has explained that the duration of a traineeship will depend on the trainee but that they can last between six weeks and twelve months. However, most traineeships are expected to be completed within six months.

For employers to be eligible for the incentive, trainees must have undertaken a minimum of seventy hours of work experience over a period between six weeks and twelve months; the work they complete must be of high quality, and trainees must have received a certain level of qualification. Trainees should have also progressed to either an apprenticeship, other employment, or further education. Where none of the above outcomes is achieved, it is expected that trainees will be able to demonstrate, in a CV, significantly increased skills and work experience that will allow them to find work in the future.

At the end of each traineeship, employers should endeavour to conduct formal exit interviews with their trainees to give them the necessary experience and practice for the future, along with constructive written feedback about their time on the placement.

When applying for the incentive, employers should keep in mind that although they can take on as many trainees as they wish, they will only be able to claim a grant for up to ten trainees. However, multi-sited employers that wish to offer traineeships across England can do so and claim the £1,000 grant per trainee per region, up to a maximum of ten trainees in each region.

Employers can claim the grant for all work placements that have been completed since 1 September 2020 by sending an application via the government’s website after each placement has been completed. The deadline for making claims is 21 October 2021 – this is also the deadline for employers to send details of the outcome of the traineeships they completed by 31 July 2021. 

Featured in the April 2021 issue of Professional in Payroll, Pensions and Reward. Correct at time of publication.