Regulation at national level

The main legal instrument governing Quality Apprenticeships is to be found in national laws. However, the way in which the legislation deals with Quality Apprenticeships differs from country to country - and table 4 summarizes some of these differences. A number of countries – Belgium (the French-speaking part), India, New Zealand, the United States and Zambia - have enacted a specific law on apprenticeships as the main legal instrument governing this type of technical vocational and education training.

Table 1: Types of legislation for apprenticeships

Legislation on Quality Apprenticeships Countries
Specific law on Quality Apprenticeships
  • Apprenticeship Act, Algeria - 1981
  • Cooperation Agreement on Dual Training, Belgium – 2008, amended in 2015
  • Apprentices Act, India – 1961, last amended in 2014
  • Industry Training and Apprenticeships Act, New Zealand – 1992, last amended in 2014
  • National Apprenticeship Act, Sri Lanka - 1971
  • National Apprenticeship Act, United States - 1937
  • The Apprenticeship Act, Zambia – 1965
  • Apprenticeship Act, Morocco - 2000
Law with a broader scope containing regulations on Quality Apprenticeships
  • Legislative Decree No. 81, Italy – 2015, Articles 41 to 47
  • Manpower Act, Indonesia - 2013, Articles 21-30
  • Vocational Training Act, Germany - 2005
  • Basic Vocational Education and Training Act, Denmark - 2013
  • Vocational and Professional Education and Training Ordinance, Switzerland – 2003
  • Vocational Training Act, Tunisia - 2008

Regulation across a broader context (e.g. the Labour Code) may cover apprenticeships in some countries. For example, the latest additions to the regulatory framework on apprenticeships in Italy are to be found in sections 41-47 of a general legislative decree on work relationships. Indonesia is a similar case, where regulations on apprenticeships are embedded in sections 21-30 of the 2013 Manpower Act. In the Philippines, apprenticeship training is covered by the Labour Code, which is in the process of being amended so as to encourage employers to participate more fully in national apprenticeship programmes.

In Denmark, Germany and Switzerland, laws refer to TVET in general - but in practice they are primarily devoted to apprenticeships, which are the most prevalent form of TVET in these countries.

Clearly, it is not just a question of having a law –important although that might be - but of implementing the legislation, and many countries have a variety of secondary legislation in the form of decrees, etc. to ensure that the original law is put into effect. 

In France, the 2014 Law on Vocational Training, Employment and Social Democracy was complemented by a number of decrees clarifying the terms and conditions of various elements of the Apprenticeship Tax; and in Algeria, the 1981 Apprenticeship Law was complemented by Decree No. 04-65 (2004), which stipulates the participants involved in preparing the training programme; the contents of the training programme; and the nomination of the in-company mentor. In Brazil apprenticeship has been regulated by the Consolidation of Labour Laws, with updates its laws promulgated in 2000, 2005 and 2008, and secondary legislation - such as the Administrative Rule setting up the National Registry of Vocational Apprenticeship (2012) and the Normative Instruction to regulate the inspection of apprenticeship proposals (2012) (Brazilian Ministry of Labor and Employment, 2013). In Germany, the concerned ministry issues training regulations for each recognized training occupation that prescribes minimum standards for the in-company component of initial vocational education and training.

In India, the Federal Government, in consultation with State governments, employers’ and workers’ organizations through the Central Apprenticeship Council, established an Apprenticeship Act in 1961, (amended in 2014). In addition, it developed Apprenticeship Rules to guide stakeholders in implementing the Act. The main characteristics of the Act are contained in box 11.

Box 2: Main contents of the Apprenticeship Act - India

Governance and management of apprenticeships

  • Regulatory Authorities and Apprenticeship Advisers for monitoring the implementation of apprenticeships in accordance with the law;
  • Offences and penalties for non-compliance with the law.

Details of apprentices’ training

  • Qualifications and age for being engaged as an apprentice
  • Number of apprentices in an enterprise
  • Reservation of training places for vulnerable groups
  • Obligations of employers and apprentices
  • Financing
  • Contract of apprenticeship and conditions for termination of the contract
  • Period of apprenticeship training
  • Basic training, on-the-job training and related instruction of apprentices
  • Hours of work, overtime, leave and holidays
  • Health, safety and welfare of apprentices
  • Employer's liability for compensation for injury
  • Conduct and discipline
  • Status of apprentices (trainees and not workers)
  • Settlement of disputes
  • Holding of test, granting of certificate and conclusion of training
  • Reporting by enterprises
  • Offer and acceptance of employment after completion of training

Source: The Apprenticeship Act, 1961, and the Apprenticeship (Amendment) Act, 2014, of India

In addition, the regulation of apprenticeship training is often influenced by the existence of other laws, which relate to other parts of the education and training system – funding, quality assurance and administrative structures. In Ireland the 1967 Industrial Training Act has been complemented by: the 2000 National Training Fund Act, which regulates in part the funding of apprenticeships; the Qualifications and Quality Assurance Act, which established the supervisory body, Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) (responsible for quality assurance); and the 2013 Further Education and Training Act, which set up the new administrative structures for implementing apprenticeships. In Australia, the basic legislation regulating apprenticeship training is the 2001 Apprenticeship and Traineeship Act, which has been complemented by the 2011 National Vocational Education and Training Regulator Act setting up the Australian Skills Quality Authority. This legislation led to a set of Standards for Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) (2015) and an Australian Apprenticeship Support Network Code of Conduct, which is designed to assist apprentices and employers ‘entering into a Training Contract with a clear understanding of each other’s obligations and expectations’.1 In the Dominican Republic, the Labor Code (articles 255 to 257) provides the legal framework for apprenticeships. It stipulates provision of a contract, compensation not less than minimum wages, and a regulatory body to regulate apprenticeships.

The legal provision relating to apprenticeship training may be brief or detailed. An example of a detailed legislative text is the German Vocational Training Act (2005). The Division devoted to initial vocational education and training contains the following sections:

  • Recognition of training occupations
  • Establishment of the initial training relationship, including the obligations of apprentices, the obligations of training enterprises, remuneration, the beginning and end of the initial training relationship
  • Suitability of training premises and training staff
  • The register of initial training relationships
  • Examinations
  • Representation of interests, including further training and retraining
  • Vocational training for special groups of persons

In some countries - Australia, Canada, France, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States – the responsibility for some aspects of TVET, and more specifically apprenticeship training, are devolved to the States, regions or territories. However, there are often agreements at the national level to ensure the mutual recognition of qualifications. In Canada, for example, the provinces and territories manage their own lists of Quality Apprenticeship trades, reflecting their differences in geography, population, industry and economic reality. Despite this, it has been acknowledged that skills certification varies across provinces and territories, and this has led to the setting up of a nationally recognized certification for certain selected occupations - the ‘Interprovincial Standards Red Seal Program’ occupations. These ‘Red Seal’ occupations are managed by the Canadian Council of Directors of Apprenticeship, a coordination body among the federal, provincial and territorial governments (Canadian Apprenticeship Forum, 2017).

In some countries, the regulatory framework, whilst loosely linked to legal provisions, may be determined in a more flexible fashion, and such a case is to be found in the United Kingdom, or more specifically, England. The Government has introduced developments in apprenticeship training on the basis of consultations, reports and reviews – the Wolf Report and the Richard Review. In its implementation plan for the future of apprenticeships in England, the British Government highlighted a number of recommendations from the Richard Review, which formed the basis of its future policy-making as regards apprenticeship training (box 12).

Box 3: Recent proposals for changes to the regulatory framework in England

In his November 2012 report, Doug Richard made a number of recommendations to make the programme more rigorous and more responsive to employers’ needs. These included:

  • Redefining Apprenticeships to be targeted only at those who are new to a job or role that requires sustained and substantial training;
  • Focusing on the outcome of an Apprenticeship - what the apprentice can do when they complete their training - and freeing up the process by which they get there;
  • Ensuring a trusted, independent assessment;
  • Having recognised industry standards as the basis of every Apprenticeship and linking to professional registration in sectors where this exists;
  • Requiring all apprentices to have reached Level 2 in English and maths before they can complete their Apprenticeship
  • Ensuring government funding creates the right incentives for Apprenticeship training, with the purchasing power for investing in Apprenticeship training remaining with the employer
  • Greater diversity and innovation in training - with employers and the government safeguarding quality (United Kingdom Government, 2013, p. 6).

Status of apprentice and social security provisions

Apprentices in some countries have the status of employees, which entitles them to certain rights, regarding remuneration and social security coverage. Apprentices are deemed to be employees in countries such as Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, South Africa, the United States, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Denmark, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Norway. However, the remuneration, benefits and social security coverage available for apprentices varies considerably.  In some cases, apprentices are paid less than the minimum wage.

However in other countries, such as Egypt, India, Sri Lanka and Indonesia, apprentices are not treated as formal employees, even though they may receive a stipend or allowance. In these countries there is either no or limited social security coverage (see for example the case of India in box 14).

Box 4: Status of apprentices - India

The Apprenticeship Act in India specifies that an apprentice, in general, is a trainee and not a worker. However, when apprentices are undergoing training in a factory or a mine, the relevant provisions of the Factories Act and the Mines Act shall apply in relation to their health, safety and welfare  - as if they were workers within the meaning of those Acts. They are entitled to leave and holidays as observed in the enterprise.

If apprentices sustain a personal injury caused by an accident arising out of - or in the course of - their training as an apprentice, their employer shall be liable to pay compensation, which shall be determined and paid in accordance with the provisions of the Workmen's Compensation Act (Pleaders, 2015).

During the Learning Forum on Quality Apprenticeships organised by the ILO in Nairobi in September 2017, all 14 participating countries from Africa  informed that apprentices in their countries have the status of ‘trainee’ and not of an employee. In Kenya, however, they are considered as employees.

In this connection, it is important to recognise that the status of the apprentice as employee or otherwise is determined in relation to the national legal code or tradition and thus not directly comparable between countries. So a 'trainee' in some countries may have better remuneration and protection than apprentices in other countries even though they may be considered employees under the local law. Nevertheless, the regulatory framework in a country, as stated earlier, should ensure the quality of apprentice training, remuneration, working condition including leave and duration of work, occupational safety and health, compensation against injury at the workplace,  

In Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) countries, formal wages for apprenticeship-type programmes are contingent upon whether the programme is targeted to in-school or out-of-school youth. They are also linked to the type of contract that regulates the relationship between the apprentice and the employer. In Mexico, employers do not pay a wage to apprentices who are attending programmes that are fully integrated into the formal education system, as they are legally considered as students and not employees. In other countries, however, apprentices have similar labour rights as other workers, although they are subject to special provisions regarding the number of hours worked, the duration of their “employment” period, holidays, and remuneration. In Brazil, for example, the apprentice has access to social security contributions, unemployment insurance, and to the savings/severance fund (Fundo de Garantia do Tempo de Serviço – FGTS), a fund accessible in case of illness, the purchase of a house, or a sudden termination of employment. More details on apprentices’ remuneration is covered in Chapter 8.

Social security provisions

In many countries, young people find themselves without adequate social security coverage. In fact, many of them face difficulties finding formal employment and often have to rely on precarious or informal employment. With limited contributory capacity and unstable jobs, the extension of social security coverage to young people is a key challenge in many countries. National social security systems2 usually combine contributory (including social insurance schemes) and non-contributory (tax-financed) schemes, such as universal child benefits or social assistance. While tax-financed benefits play an important role in ensuring a basic level of social protection, social insurance benefits can guarantee higher levels of protection. Elements of social security coverage are discussed below.

Health protection and sickness benefits: Unless there is a national health service in place that ensures effective access to health care for young people, young workers will need health insurance coverage for effective access to health services. Where health insurance coverage is voluntary, many young people will not insure themselves (even where subsidized coverage mechanisms are available), wrongly believing that they will not need health coverage. Apprenticeships can help them overcome this challenge by providing mandatory health protection through social health insurance or other means. In addition, cash sickness benefits are also an important means of ensuring income security during illness.

Employment injury, disability and old-age pensions: It is important that young people join a pension scheme at an early stage in their career to guarantee income security in their old age through employment or apprenticeships. In many countries, the benefits level of contributory pensions is largely determined by the contribution history during the working life. As many young people are often involved in precarious employment before they obtain formal employment, they risk receiving only a basic income in old age. In addition, many pension schemes provide not only old-age pensions but also disability, employment injury and survivor benefits. With Quality Apprenticeships, young people can be covered by pensions and disability benefits at an early stage of their careers, enhancing income security and access to health care in retirement.

Unemployment benefits: While first-time jobseekers are usually not covered by statutory unemployment insurance, apprentices with previous contribution records may enjoy statutory coverage by unemployment insurance, which can facilitate their job search. For example, in Germany, after three years of apprenticeship, jobseekers are eligible for a maximum of 12 months of unemployment insurance benefit at 60 per cent of their previous year’s salary.

Maternity protection and family benefits: Maternity benefits, as well as child/family benefits, are an important means of social protection for those apprentices with family responsibilities.

The examples of Austria, Germany and Switzerland (see box 14) show how successful apprenticeship systems are linked to the social security system.

Box 5: Mandatory social insurance for apprentices in Austria, Germany and Switzerland

In Austria, Germany and Switzerland, all apprentices are insured under the social insurance system from the first day of their employment, as are all other employees. They enjoy the full range of social insurance coverage, including for health, employment injury, disability, old age, survivorship, maternity, sickness and unemployment. The social insurance contribution is proportional to their wage or salary and is usually shared between the apprentice and his/her employer.

In Austria, apprentices are insured in the case of employment injuries: both apprentices and their employer are exempted from paying contributions.

In Germany, if an apprentice earns less than EUR 325 per month, the employers cover the full social insurance contribution on their own. While other employees need to be insured for five years until eligible for pensions, in the case of employment injury or occupational disease, apprentices will receive benefits from the first day, if necessary.

In Switzerland, apprentices up to the age of 25 years are exempted from contributions to the second-tier old-age pension scheme.

Sources: Swiss Federal Social Insurance Office (BSV), 2016; German Statutory Pension Insurance Scheme (DRV), 2016; and Austrian Social Security (SV), 2016.

1The Australian Apprenticeship Support Network Code of Conduct is available at: [accessed 28 May 2017].

2 The terms "social protection system“ and "social security system“ can be used interchangeably to refer to a coordinated set of contributory and non-contributory schemes and programmes.