I have noted in recent issues much discussion about addressing the skills gap and the increased willingness of employers to look at apprenticeships as a means to achieving this (Personnel Today, 29 January). I just wanted to remind readers of Personnel Today that there are important legal considerations to bear in mind when engaging apprentices.
First, the employer’s right to summarily dismiss an apprentice is more restricted than it is under the contract of employment. Indeed, case law suggests that nothing short of conduct that makes it impossible for the employer to carry out the essential purpose of the contract (ie, teaching the apprentice his or her chosen trade) will justify termination without notice.
In addition, an employer is not able to terminate the apprenticeship solely on the grounds of redundancy for example, a downturn in the economy. You would only be permitted to do so if the business was actually shutting down or changing its character completely.
If an apprentice is unlawfully dismissed, they are also likely to be able to demonstrate losses for the rest of the term of the apprenticeship, meaning that damages awarded might be higher.
Morgan Denton Jones