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Fixed Term Apprentice Contracts and Dismissal

By: J.A.J Aaronson - Updated: 2 Jul 2018 | comments*Discuss
 
Apprentice Apprenticeship Dismissal

The agreement between an apprentice and their employer is, by its nature, complicated. There is a lot of confusion about these contracts – for example, is it an employment contract? Is it a fixed term contract?

In fact, apprentices have a very specific legal status. They enjoy certain rights that are not extended to other workers or employees – including protection from certain forms of dismissal. It is important that you understand the nature of the contract, and how it affects your ability to dismiss apprentices.

What is a Fixed Term Contract?

A fixed term contract is a specific type of employment contract. It differs from a conventional employment contract in that it ends at a particular time. It might end, for example, on a specified date, or it might end when the employee has completed a defined task.

Fixed term contracts are common. Seasonal workers, or those carrying out maternity cover, might have fixed term contracts. Employees who are on fixed term contracts have a number of special rights, including the right not to be treated less favourably than those on conventional contracts doing the same or a similar job.

How Does this Relate to Apprentices?

It is often thought that apprentices are employees with fixed term contracts. In fact, this is not the case. The Fixed-Term Employee (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations exclude apprentices from their provisions.

It is easy to see how the confusion arises. In practical terms, the apprentice has a set date on which their contract will end, or a set event that will trigger the end of their contract. But the fact that apprentices’ contracts are not legally considered to be fixed term has major implications for the way in which employers can dismiss these individuals.

So I can’t Sack an Apprentice?

This depends on the circumstances. First, it is important to understand the implications for dismissal at the end of the contract.

Generally speaking, you have no legal obligation to provide the apprentice with a job once their contract has ended. The exception to this is when a job is promised within the apprentice agreement. If their contract is not renewed at the end of the apprenticeship, the apprentice will be considered to have been dismissed. Apprenticeships are considered to have a specific purpose, and that purpose is the training of the apprentice. So, when that training is complete, the contract will end – and the apprentice will not be considered to have been made redundant. Instead, they will be legally considered to have been dismissed for ‘some other substantial reason’.

The nature of an apprentice’s contract also makes it very difficult for an employer to sack them during the course of their apprenticeship. The onus is, of course, on the employer to show that they are dismissing the apprentice fairly and reasonably. You cannot simply give an apprentice notice that they are going to be dismissed if, for example, you cannot afford to keep them on.

How Can I Protect Myself?

This does not mean, however, that it is impossible to sack an apprentice. Consider a situation, for example, in which you catch an apprentice stealing from the till. In this case you would (quite reasonably) probably want to know how you can sack them.

In order to protect yourself, you should consider having disciplinary procedures written into the apprentice agreement. You should set out exactly what you think constitutes fair and reasonable grounds for dismissal. You should read the article elsewhere on this site for more information on what this means. If the apprentice breaks the terms of the agreement, claims that they might have against you, for example for lost wages, will then be mitigated or eliminated.

It is also absolutely vital that you understand the costs of taking on an apprentice before you begin. It is common for businesses to take on an apprentice, realise they can’t afford it, and then try to dismiss them – only to find themselves the subject of an employment tribunal. Again, you may wish to read the breakdown of apprenticeship costs elsewhere on this site.

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Ali - Your Question:
My son started his Level 3 apprenticeship in Hairdressing last September 2017. Since then he has turned 19 and his employer has had to pay him at the rate of pay for his age. Last week, he has given him notice. I have contacted him and he has said that although happy with his work, he cannot afford to keep him on, but will be taking a Level 2 school leaver apprentice on in September because it is cheaper. My son has only completed 9 months of his course and now doesn't know what he can do. This seems totally wrong to me - surely there has to be a commitment from the employer to keep the apprentice on until the end of their course.

Our Response:
I am sorry to hear this. Apprentices must work towards an approved apprenticeship standard or framework. Their training must last at least 12 months.The link here may help further. The appenticeship helpline may also help point you int he right direction, please see link here. Also it is worth checking your son's apprenticeship agremeement to see what both he and his employer have agreed to, please see link here .
AnApprenticeship - 3-Jul-18 @ 11:28 AM
My son started his Level 3 apprenticeship in Hairdressing last September 2017.Since then he has turned 19 and his employer has had to pay him at the rate of pay for his age.Last week, he has given him notice.I have contacted him and he has said that although happy with his work, he cannot afford to keep him on, but will be taking a Level 2 school leaver apprentice on in September because it is cheaper.My son has only completed 9 months of his course and now doesn't know what he can do. This seems totally wrong to me - surely there has to be a commitment from the employer to keep the apprentice on until the end of their course.
Ali - 2-Jul-18 @ 6:35 PM
@anne - unfortunately, if your son is unable to do the job he was contracted to do (verbally or otherwise) then his employer is under no obligation to continue the contract, as he is still in the probabtionary period.
Mr< - 11-Jun-18 @ 2:10 PM
my son is 20 and started an apprenticeship 3 months ago with a small family hgv maintenance firm. At his interview he was basically offered the job, upon confirmation they verbally agreed to an hourly pay of £6.50 as they agreed his travel, living costs etc required this. He had a months trial, both parties were happy, college was arranged and he was informed he would receive contract. Approx 2 weeks ago he injured his finger in the main doors at work resulting in a hospital visit, referral to plastic surgery unit and a small operation. It has been confirmed by hospital that he has suffered nerve damage which may never heal, plus the nail bed had to be removed. He had a sick note but did want to continue working doing any light duty possible. All in all he had around a week off where whilst off a 17 year old boy was taken on which my son was unaware of until returning to work. My son was the one making contact with his employers, which they did not really reply to and they made no attempt to contact to check up on him. My son returned to work on tuesday to be informed by employers that they are cutting his wage to the minimum wage for apprenticies his age. He has still not been given a contract which is worrying him now and he is uncertain of his rights. The other boy taken on was dismissed after his trial. I am in a hospitality management role myself and I am under the impression that a verbal contract stands and due to them already paying him 2 months at the agreed rate I think this stands as the proof of their agreement. Could anyone please confirm this and advise us of anything else you may feel is relevant here. Thank you.
anne - 9-Jun-18 @ 7:03 AM
my son is 20 and started an apprenticeship 3 months ago with a small family hgv maintenance firm. At his interview he was basically offered the job, upon confirmation they verbally agreed to an hourly pay of £6.50 as they agreed his travel, living costs etc required this. He had a months trial, both parties were happy, college was arranged and he was informed he would receive contract. Approx 2 weeks ago he injured his finger in the main doors at work resulting in a hospital visit, referral to plastic surgery unit and a small operation. It has been confirmed by hospital that he has suffered nerve damage which may never heal, plus the nail bed had to be removed. He had a sick note but did want to continue working doing any light duty possible. All in all he had around a week off where whilst off a 17 year old boy was taken on which my son was unaware of until returning to work. My son was the one making contact with his employers, which they did not really reply to and they made no attempt to contact to check up on him. My son returned to work on tuesday to be informed by employers that they are cutting his wage to the minimum wage for apprenticies his age. He has still not been given a contract which is worrying him now and he is uncertain of his rights. The other boy taken on was dismissed after his trial. I am in a hospitality management role myself and I am under the impression that a verbal contract stands and due to them already paying him 2 months at the agreed rate I think this stands as the proof of their agreement. Could anyone please confirm this and advise us of anything else you may feel is relevant here. Thank you.
anne - 8-Jun-18 @ 10:18 PM
JP - Your Question:
Hi, it is nearing the end of my apprenticeship and still dont know whether I am going to be kept on. I started June last year. A few weeks ago, I was brought into the office and my line manager along with my mentor was there and they threatened me saying that they weren't sure if I was still going to be working with them by the end of the day. The previous day, I was caught looking on a footbal website and that was the reason I was called in. I work on the front desk. I have also been caught using my mobile phone a few times but I have never done anything deemed as gross misconduct. I work with patients and I have never broken confidentiality. Apparently I am not doing my job right as I couldnt get some of my work done a few weeks ago as I was too busy on the front desk but they said I should have rung someone in the office? How can I ring if I am too busy? They are now closely monitoring me but I am on edge thinking I will be dismissed. Just to point out as well, when they threatened to dismiss me, I had no form of support apart from my mentor who actually agreed with my manager. Any advise please.

Our Response:
Your employer does not have to keep you on at the end of your contract if your employer chooses not to. You would have to read the terms of your contract to see what it says about disciplinaries, which will tell you what your employer is and is not allowed to do.
AnApprenticeship - 8-Jun-18 @ 3:01 PM
Hi, it is nearing the end of my apprenticeship and still dont know whether i am going to be kept on. I started June last year. A few weeks ago, I was brought into the office and my line manager along with my mentor was there and they threatened me saying that they weren't sure if I was still going to be working with them by the end of the day. The previous day, I was caught looking on a footbal website and that was the reason i was called in. I work on the front desk. I have also been caught using my mobile phone a few times but I have never done anything deemed as gross misconduct. I work with patients and I have never broken confidentiality. Apparently I am not doing my job right as I couldnt get some of my work done a few weeks ago as I was too busy on the front desk but they said I should have rung someone in the office? How can I ring if I am too busy? They are now closely monitoring me but I am on edge thinking I will be dismissed. Just to point out as well, when they threatened to dismiss me, I had no form of support apart from my mentor who actually agreed with my manager. Any advise please.
JP - 5-Jun-18 @ 7:09 PM
Hi, it is nearing the end of my apprenticeship and still dont know whether i am going to be kept on. I started June last year. A few weeks ago, I was brought into the office and my line manager along with my mentor was there and they threatened me saying that they weren't sure if I was still going to be working with them by the end of the day. The previous day, I was caught looking on a footbal website and that was the reason i was called in. I work on the front desk. I have also been caught using my mobile phone a few times but I have never done anything deemed as gross misconduct. I work with patients and I have never broken confidentiality. Apparently I am not doing my job right as I couldnt get some of my work done a few weeks ago as I was too busy on the front desk but they said I should have rung someone in the office? How can I ring if I am too busy? They are now closely monitoring me but I am on edge thinking I will be dismissed. Just to point out as well, when they threatened to dismiss me, I had no form of support apart from my mentor who actually agreed with my manager. Any advise please.
JP - 5-Jun-18 @ 6:50 PM
Hi, it is nearing the end of my apprenticeship and still dont know whether i am going to be kept on. I started June last year. A few weeks ago, I was brought into the office and my line manager along with my mentor was there and they threatened me saying that they weren't sure if I was still going to be working with them by the end of the day. The previous day, I was caught looking on a footbal website and that was the reason i was called in. I work on the front desk. I have also been caught using my mobile phone a few times but I have never done anything deemed as gross misconduct. I work with patients and I have never broken confidentiality. Apparently I am not doing my job right as I couldnt get some of my work done a few weeks ago as I was too busy on the front desk but they said I should have rung someone in the office? How can I ring if I am too busy? They are now closely monitoring me but I am on edge thinking I will be dismissed. Just to point out as well, when they threatened to dismiss me, I had no form of support apart from my mentor who actually agreed with my manager. Any advise please.
JP - 5-Jun-18 @ 6:19 PM
my son is 20 and started an apprenticeship 3 months ago with a small family hgv maintenance firm. At his interview he was basically offered the job, upon confirmation they verbally agreed to an hourly pay of £6.50 as they agreed his travel, living costs etc required this. He had a months trial, both parties were happy, college was arranged and he was informed he would receive contract. Approx 2 weeks ago he injured his finger in the main doors at work resulting in a hospital visit, referral to plastic surgery unit and a small operation. It has been confirmed by hospital that he has suffered nerve damage which may never heal, plus the nail bed had to be removed. He had a sick note but did want to continue working doing any light duty possible. All in all he had around a week off where whilst off a 17 year old boy was taken on which my son was unaware of until returning to work. My son was the one making contact with his employers, which they did not really reply to and they made no attempt to contact to check up on him. My son returned to work on tuesday to be informed by employers that they are cutting his wage to the minimum wage for apprenticies his age. He has still not been given a contract which is worrying him now and he is uncertain of his rights. The other boy taken on was dismissed after his trial. I am in a hospitality management role myself and I am under the impression that a verbal contract stands and due to them already paying him 2 months at the agreed rate I think this stands as the proof of their agreement. Could anyone please confirm this and advise us of anything else you may feel is relevant here. Thank you.
anne - 3-Jun-18 @ 4:13 AM
Gladdy - Your Question:
I started a two year apprenticship in June 2016. I was told a fortnight ago there would be no job for me at the end of my two years. I've been told to hand my notice in at the end of this month. Surely it's them that should dismiss me as when I took the job I thought I would be kept on at the end of my two years. Also when I leave should I be entitled to holiday pay. Our holiday period starts January to December I'm in a private nursery.

Our Response:
You should be entitled to holiday pay if it is owed to you, please see link here . Regarding handing in your notice, you can word it in such a way that you are doing it on instruction after being told by your employer there would be no job for you at the end of the apprenticeship.
AnApprenticeship - 18-May-18 @ 3:29 PM
I started a two year apprenticship in June2016. I was told a fortnight ago there would be no job for me at the end of my two years. I've been told to hand my notice in at the end of this month. Surely it's them that should dismiss me as when I took the job I thought I would be kept on at the end of my two years. Also when I leave should I be entitled to holiday pay . Our holiday period starts January to December I'm in a private nursery.
Gladdy - 18-May-18 @ 3:02 PM
Jp1994 - Your Question:
Hi, I started an apprenticeship on Monday, however I didn't sign anything, my induction was arranged but after the first week my boss said that he didn't want me as I was too open about myself and he thought I'd breach confidential information, however he still kept me working through out the week can he just let me go like that as I haven't given him any just cause to show I am talking a cv out other patients. He also said I was talking about other members off staff which I never did as I don't know them long enough to do that, other members of staff did, I just sat there quietly as the two members talked.

Our Response:
You would still be deemed to be on your probationary period. You can see more regarding what this entials via the link here .
AnApprenticeship - 18-May-18 @ 2:24 PM
Hi, I started an apprenticeship on Monday, however I didn't sign anything, my induction was arranged but after the first week my boss said that he didn't want me as I was too open about myself and he thought I'd breach confidential information, however he still kept me working through out the week can he just let me go like that as I haven't given him any just cause to show I am talking a cv out other patients. He also said I was talking about other members off staff which I never did as I don't know them long enough to do that, other members of staff did, I just sat there quietly as the two members talked.
Jp1994 - 17-May-18 @ 3:25 PM
Hi i work in Nhs for 4 years as a health care assistant and when i applied for different Nhs trust as a permanent job but they give me apprenticeship for healthcare .later i realise that i was not on right contract so when i ask them why do i need to do aprenticeship for healthcare though i have got already 4 years experience as a healthcare but they said becausei dont have a proper nvq , carecertificate they put me on apprenticeship low pay .and i was not happy i told them but i have worked as healthcare assistant as a trained so do i still need to work as a apprenticeship ? Please give me some advice
Tinku - 29-Apr-18 @ 5:22 PM
We currently have a Lev 2 apprentice on an 18 month fixed term agreement, we would like to allow them to continue on to Lev 3 under a new 18 month fixed term agreement, at the end of the second agreement they will have 3 years continuous service do we issue notice to terminate in line with the fixed term agreement or will the apprentice be entitled to redudnancy pay.We do not have sufficient support to allow an apprentice to continue to Lev 4 or a job opening?
ANON - 26-Apr-18 @ 1:36 PM
I finish my 12 month apprenticeship in July but leave on maternity leave in June. I have finished all my training and have agreed 9 month maternity leave with the company. The pay I receive is 80% of what my wage would be if I was still working there. So after July when the apprenticeship was due to end will I still be receiving 80% of my wage as if I was still on apprentice wage or will my maternity pay go up to 80% of minimum wage?
Anon - 13-Apr-18 @ 12:23 PM
KD - Your Question:
I took on a 1 year apprentice who fell pregnant within a few months. She completed her training early and went on maternity leave last May. The apprenticeship ended in August. I have paid all the owed maternity pay and she has had nearly 52 weeks away from work. She has now indicated she wants to return to work but her apprenticeship is over. Anyone know mine and her rights?

Our Response:
If her apprenticeship contract has ended and she has completed the training, then you should not have to allow her return to work unless you wish to employ her on a non-apprenticeship contract. However, if she fell pregnant while training and the apprenticeship was left in limbo and she has not received her full training, then you may wish to give Acas a call to find out whether you are obliged to re-employ her until her apprenticeship offically ends.
AnApprenticeship - 6-Apr-18 @ 12:05 PM
I took on a 1 year apprentice who fell pregnant within a few months. She completed her training early and went on maternity leave last May. The apprenticeship ended in August. I have paid all the owed maternity pay and she has had nearly 52 weeks away from work. She has now indicated she wants to return to work but her apprenticeship is over. Anyone know mine and her rights?
KD - 5-Apr-18 @ 8:30 PM
bean - Your Question:
Is this the same for in Australia? I didn't realise I was on a UK site.

Our Response:
Australian laws will differ. Unfortunately, we have no knowledge of Australian apprenticeship laws.
AnApprenticeship - 29-Mar-18 @ 11:39 AM
is this the same for in Australia?I didn't realise I was on a UK site.
bean - 28-Mar-18 @ 8:36 AM
My son started a one year apprenticeship with a large company last year. The apprenticeship was due to finish in May this year. There has been some reorganisation and a new company has just taken over the apprenticeship. This new company wants to extend my son's apprenticeship until September 18, asking him to sign a new contract. Is this legal? My son will be working on his own in the job.If my son signs the new contract to finish the apprenticeship how can he be fully routed on his own and still receiving apprenticeship pay and not a proper salary.
Flower - 21-Mar-18 @ 10:28 PM
Hi I have completedmy first year appretnership and I was 6 months in my second year and he said I wasemtt improving and I had a verbal warning for spilling paint on the floor but no first warming I don't understand also now inhale no employer they said I could finish my last 4 months to complete appretnership doing the test buttoday they said I have 4 weeks to complete that can they does this?
Sam - 14-Mar-18 @ 12:28 AM
Hi, I was 2 and a half years of the way through my apprenticeship and the host employer emailed the apprenticeship agency and told them that they wanted to withdraw the sponsorship for my apprenticeship yet provided no reason. The apprenticeship agency rang me to inform me and asked me to come in 2 working days later to their head office for a Disciplinary, when I got there i was told that I was being issued my 4 weeks notice, that I can appeal the decision with the agency but not the host employer and that the host employer doesn’t have to give any reason. Is this allowed? I am now not sure if I will be able to get my degree as there are many workplace modules to this. Thanks
Le - 17-Feb-18 @ 8:05 PM
Jules - Your Question:
My daughter in law had a years apprenticeship as a level 2 nursery nurse, her employer has given her two weeks notice as they cannot offer her level 3 why is this. I thought the government paid this wage to the company to train her! It seems that she has put all the effort in, worked extra days with no pay, she is heartbroken can they dismiss her in this way

Our Response:
Much depends upon your daughter's contract. If her contract ends at level 2, and is renewed at level three, then her employer has no obligation to continue employing her once her contract ends. An employer still has to pay towards the wages of an apprentice. An employer can get government funding to cover 'some' of the cost of training and assessing an apprentice. I hope your daughter finds a suitable replacement soon.
AnApprenticeship - 12-Feb-18 @ 12:33 PM
My daughter in law had a years apprenticeship as a level 2 nursery nurse, her employer has given her two weeks notice as they cannot offer her level 3 why is this.. I thought the government paid this wage to the company to train her! It seems that she has put all the effort in, worked extra days with no pay, she is heartbroken can they dismiss her in this way
Jules - 10-Feb-18 @ 10:14 AM
My contract was terminated last November and I had to do my second attempt for trade test was left with two tasks to write and they booked for me but I have to go write without any preparation and I last did preparation in September and it's been long and have don't money to pay for myself and they said they won't pay for third attempt. They knew already that the contract was ending but waited long before doing the bookings for trade test and training because they don't have enough equipment to give us all the training we needed for trade test. I want to know if what they are doing to us is right according to the rules and regulations
MamaPMamaP - 20-Jan-18 @ 12:36 PM
Hello I was an apprentice at a certain company for 4 years and my contract was terminated last year before I qualified and the initial agreement was for me to become an artisan... According to Merseta I would like to know how many attempts a company should give you when writing a trade test
Licious - 20-Jan-18 @ 12:17 PM
Cookie - Your Question:
Hi my daughter has a 2 year apprentice contract and couldn’t make it to work on Saturday. She has just been given the sack by text message ! Without any warning. She has been there since September. Can her employer just do this ?

Our Response:
If your daughter is on a probationary period (you would have to check the terms and conditions of her apprenticeship contract to find this information out), then her employer can dismiss her. An employee cannot claim for unfair dismissal unless they have been with the company for more than two years.
AnApprenticeship - 11-Jan-18 @ 2:36 PM
Hi my daughter has a 2 year apprentice contract and couldn’t make it to work on Saturday. She has just been given the sack by text message ! Without any warning . She has been there since September. Can her employer just do this ?
Cookie - 10-Jan-18 @ 12:27 AM
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