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An Update on Apprenticeships

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The concept of anapprenticeship dates back to the middle ages where a mastercraftsman would provide lodgings and training to a willingindividual in return for cheap labour.

The primary purpose of thisarrangement was training; secondary to that purpose was theemployment of the apprentice. This is what is known as a"common law apprenticeship". In practice, this means thatthere is a higher threshold to satisfy when terminating a commonlaw apprenticeship compared to that of any other employee. The case law that developed demonstrated that any failings on thepart of the apprentice were perceived to be failings on the part ofthe employer who was providing the training and were unlikely to besufficient to justify terminating the apprenticeship.

By way of an example, astraightforward redundancy will not necessarily give the right toterminate the apprenticeship early unless the business is close toclosure or there is a fundamental change in the character of thebusiness.

Early termination of theapprenticeship risks a complaint of wrongful dismissal in that theapprenticeship has been terminated in breach of the apprenticeshipcontract. Any compensation will be based not only on lostearnings for the remaining balance of the apprenticeship but alsofor the loss of expected earnings on achieving thequalification.

Apprenticeships cover morethan 280 industry occupations and 1500 job roles. A reportpublished earlier this year by the Centre for Economic and BusinessResearch estimates that apprenticeships will contribute £3.4billion to the UK economy by 2022. Understandably thereforeapprenticeships are a hot topic for theGovernment.

Having identified a need tochange the legislative landscape relating to apprenticeships, theGovernment responded by introducing the Apprenticeship SkillsChildren and Learning Act 2009. Provided that the employerhas in place an apprenticeship agreement satisfying the "prescribedform" the primary focus of an apprenticeship is changed fromtraining to that of employment. However, if theapprenticeship agreement is not in the prescribed form then thearrangement will remain a "common law apprenticeship" and will begoverned by the previous regime.

The "prescribed form" is basedupon a normal written contract of employment with the inclusion ofspecific requirements. This contract must include a statementof skill, trade and occupation of the apprenticeship in questionand must also very clearly state that it is entered into inconnection with a qualifying apprenticeship framework. Inpractice it will also be important to consider including in theapprenticeship agreement the practicalities of the trainingarrangement and daily expectations on the apprentice.

Provided that an employer hasin place the right contractual arrangement an apprentice can betreated in the same way as any other employee in terms ofemployment law.

This article is for general guidance only. It provides useful information in a concise form. Action should not be taken without obtaining specific legal advice.

This article is for general guidance only. It provides useful information in a concise form. Action should not be taken without obtaining specific legal advice.
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