Home > Employment Conditions > Fixed Term Apprentice Contracts and Dismissal

Fixed Term Apprentice Contracts and Dismissal

By: J.A.J Aaronson - Updated: 18 May 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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[Add a Comment]
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
Chick - Your Question:
My son is 8 weeks into his apprenticeship and just before Christmas was given a verbal warning for having bad grammer and spelling mistakes, he has now received a written warning stating the same but it is dated the day after he received the verbal warning, they say they will dismiss him by the end of January if he doesn’t improve, in my opinion this is not misconduct and by law they cannot do this, his contract is for 12 months, what would be the next step for him to take? Also said they can’t afford his wages?

Our Response:
If your son is only eight weeks into his apprenticeship and he is still on his 'probationary period', then his employer can assess his suitablity for the job and dismiss him if the employer deems your son to be unsuitable. You can see more about probationary periods via the link here. Apart from certain circumstances, an employee can only claim unfair dismissal after they have been with their employer for over two years.
AnApprenticeship - 5-Jan-18 @ 3:44 PM
My son is 8 weeks into his apprenticeship and just before Christmas was given a verbal warning for having bad grammer and spelling mistakes, he has now received a written warning stating the same but it is dated the day after he received the verbal warning, they say they will dismiss him by the end of January if he doesn’t improve, in my opinion this is not misconduct and by law they cannot do this, his contract is for 12 months, what would be the next step for him to take? Also said they can’t afford his wages?
Chick - 5-Jan-18 @ 2:02 PM
Hi My Daughter has just completed a years apprenticeship with an estate agents. She has just completed her year (October) with which they offered her a new contract and she signed. This week they started a new apprentice and have cancelled my daughters contract saying her work is not up to scratch although she has been given no warnings in the past..it seems to me they are just using young people on a wage of £3.50 for their own purposes...apparently this is not the first time these people have done this..is this legal? She is distraught with it all as she has put in some very hard work and lived on a pittance to be treated like this
djb - 24-Nov-17 @ 2:04 PM
My daughter was offered an apprenticeship placement in Sep 2017 and is on a 3 months probation period. She has been put on the apprenticeship course until her 3 months probation has ended is it right that she should be getting paid apprenticeship wages or should she be on the minimum wage whilst in the probationary period as she is not yet on the apprenticeship course.
Crazycatjrm - 21-Nov-17 @ 9:21 PM
Shurl - Your Question:
My daughter has been given a 3 month contract on her new hair dressing apprenticeshio. The course will take much longer so why has she onluly had a 3 month contract please

Our Response:
This would be classed as her probationary period to see whether she is suited to the job, please see link here.
AnApprenticeship - 21-Nov-17 @ 12:48 PM
Dgutz - Your Question:
I've just been notified that I've been terminated from the apprenticeship program. Can my employer keep on as an employee?

Our Response:
If your employer chooses to ask you to stay on as an employee, then yes. However, what you must not accept is continuing to work for apprentice wages once your apprenticeship ends. If your employer is doing this, then you would have to speak to him/her directly and ask for a wage increase which should fall in line with the national minimum wage for your age, please see link here.
AnApprenticeship - 20-Nov-17 @ 3:48 PM
I've just been notified that I've been terminated from the apprenticeship program. Can my employer keep on as an employee?
Dgutz - 18-Nov-17 @ 2:15 AM
My daughter has been given a 3 month contract on her new hair dressing apprenticeshio. The course will take much longer so why has she onluly had a 3 month contract please
Shurl - 17-Nov-17 @ 1:14 PM
@T - it depends on your apprenticeship contract and what it says about leaving etc. There's no harm in applying though if your contract allows it - it will show you are keen.
Jojo - 14-Nov-17 @ 10:46 AM
I’ve been in my apprenticeship for 6 month. A full time placement came up in my office. Can I apply for it ?
T - 13-Nov-17 @ 4:14 PM
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