Q: My business is thinking of starting a graduate scheme. What are the employment law considerations I should have in mind when employing graduates?
A: Graduate schemes are becoming an increasingly common method of recruiting new talent and training staff for a professional role. Graduates are seen as a source of new ideas and enthusiasm for the business, as well as providing the future workforce. Companies that are considering introducing a scheme can wonder whether employment rights are different for graduates.
Graduate employees gain the same employment rights as others, including the right to receive a statement of main terms of employment, the right to statutory sick pay, working time limits and paid annual leave. Where the employer decides to offer minimum wage, salaries may differ between those on the scheme as this will depend on the ages of the graduates.
Pay and security
Some may be entitled to the National Minimum Wage, and those who are aged 25 and over will be entitled to receive the National Living Wage.
Other rights are gained through working for the employer for a certain period of time. This includes the right to not be unfairly dismissed after the employee reaches two years’ service.
Recruitment of graduates is an area in which age discrimination can take place. Graduates can be any age, but most people unconsciously associate graduates as being younger. Adverts for the scheme should avoid words such as ‘youthful’ or ‘energetic’, as these can be used as evidence that the employer has a discriminatory attitude towards older applicants.
Additionally, selecting applicants for interviews or the next stage of the recruitment process should not take into account the ages of the candidates. Instead, selection should focus on the specific requirements for the role, including objective factors such as required qualifications and skills.
Where the business is paying for the completion of a professional qualification, they may want to put in place a training agreement.
This is an agreement between the graduate employee and their employer, in which they agree to repay the costs of the training should they leave within a certain period of receiving said training. These agreements are usually based on a sliding scale, whereby the longer the graduate stays with the company after the training, the lower the amount to repay.
For those who are paying the levy, they have 24 months from the payment entering their digital account to spend this on their apprentices. This means that they can use this time to set in place a scheme that meets their business needs.
Peter Done is managing director of law firm Peninsula