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Apprentices and Dismissal


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Can You Be Fired as an Apprentice?

As an apprentice you are also an employee whether under a traditional contract of apprenticeship or a Statutory Apprenticeship Agreement. Both are contracts of employment under section 230(2) ERA 1996 and therefore if you enter into such a contract, you will be an employee under ERA 1996, s 230(1). Your Employer must go through all the correct procedures in the workplace policy and the ACAS Code 1, or a dismissal would be unfair or wrongful.

If you are being treated unfairly at work, use the Grievance Builder to raise a grievance or the ET1 Builder to complain in the Employment Tribunal

Contract of Apprenticeship 

You have stronger rights with a traditional contract of apprenticeship. A traditional contract is one where you are bound to your Employer in order to learn a trade, and your Employer agrees to teach and instruct you. A contract of apprenticeship can only be brought to an end by some fundamental frustrating event or repudiatory act.  Such apprenticeships are special, and a misconduct that would usually justify a dismissal is not enough. The only way in which a contract of apprenticeship can be terminated is if you do something that makes you unteachable, therefore frustrating the purpose of the contract. You cannot be dismissed for redundancy, and if your employer dismisses you before the end of your contract, you can sue for breach of contract and get damages for the full term of the contract as well as loss of your future career prospects. This means that the ordinary law on dismissal does not apply to contracts of apprenticeship.

Redundancy

You can only be terminated on grounds of redundancy on rare occasions – ‘closure or a fundamental change in the character of the employer’s enterprise. The contract is for a fixed term and is not terminable at will, unlike a contract of employment at common law –  Wallace v CA Roofing Services [1996]

Misconduct

A contract of apprenticeship may not be terminable for misconduct in the same way as an ordinary contract of employment and, in the event of wrongful termination, you may have a claim for enhanced damages because of the loss of your career prospects on completion of your apprenticeship – Dunk V George Waller & Son Ltd [1970]

Agreements 
Apprenticeship agreements prevail over the terms and conditions of a contract – Whiteley v Marton Electrical Ltd [2003]. 

Apprenticeship Agreement (Approved English Apprenticeship Agreement) 

Section 3 of the Deregulation Act 2015 inserted a new Chapter A1 into Part 1 of the ASCLA 2009 (set out in Schedule 1 to the Deregulation Act 2015), which introduced the concept of ‘approved English apprenticeships’ with effect from 26 May 2015.

The effect of this is that the apprenticeship agreement operates through ordinary employment law, rather than under the traditional contract of apprenticeship, and issues about your employment status and termination of employment are addressed under the terms of statute, rather than by reference to the old law of apprenticeship.

This means that the ordinary law on dismissal applies to a person employed under an apprenticeship agreement, while it does not apply to a person employed under a contract of apprenticeship.

The apprenticeship agreement will be a limited-term (fixed term) contract so if your employment is not renewed at the end of the term that will operate as a dismissal in law – North East Coast Shiprepairers v Secretary of State for Employment [1978]

Normal unfair dismissal principles will apply and the dismissal will be subject to the test of reasonableness.

Last Updated: [06/01/2022]