As per Indian employment laws, it is not mandatory to cover Apprentices under the ESI Act. The definition of ‘employee’ under ESI Act is;
“…any person employed for wages in or in connection with the work of a factory or establishment to which this Act applies and –
(i) Who is directly employed by the principal employer on any work of , or incidental or preliminary to or connected with the work of, the factory or establishment whether such work is done by the employee in the factory or establishment or elsewhere; or
(ii) who is employed by or through an immediate employer on the premises of the factory or establishment or under the supervision of the principal employer or his agent on work which is ordinarily part of the work of the factory or establishment or which is preliminary to the work carried on in or incidental to the purpose of the factory or establishment; or
(iii) whose services are temporarily lent or let on hire to the principal employer by the person with whom the person whose services are so lent or let on hire has entered into a contract of service; and includes any person employed for wages on any work connected with the administration of the factory or establishment or any part, department or branch thereof or with the purchase of raw materials for, or the distribution or sale of the products of, the factory or establishment or any person engaged as an apprentice, not being an apprentice engaged under the Apprentices Act, 1961 (52 of 1961), or under the standing orders of the establishment; but does not include –
(a) any member of the Indian naval, military or air forces; or
(b) any person so employed whose wages (excluding remuneration for overtime work) exceed such wages as may be prescribed by the Central Government :
Provided that an employee whose wages (excluding) remuneration for overtime work) exceed such wages as may be prescribed by the Central Government at any time after (and not before) the beginning of the contribution period, shall continue to be an employee until the end of that period”
Apprentices engaged under the Standing Orders of the establishment or under the Apprentices Act are excluded from the definition of “employees” under the ESI Act.
Therefore it is not mandatory to cover Apprentices under the ESI Act.