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Making an Apprentice Redundant

By: J.A.J Aaronson - Updated: 10 Sep 2019 | comments*Discuss
Apprentice Apprenticeship Dismissal

Apprentices enjoy a range of rights that are not extended to other employees. They have a very specific definition in law – but many employers do not understand that they cannot simply be treated like conventional employees.

This is particularly apparent when it comes to redundancy. Apprentices have additional protection from redundancy, and a failure on your part to understand this protection could result in a costly tribunal case.

Can I Make an Apprentice Redundant?

This is a very difficult area, and one on which there remains some disagreement. Given that apprentices are, for the most part, treated like conventional employees, many businesses presume that they can make an apprentice redundant in the same way they would anyone else.

In reality, though, there is a significant body of legal opinion that suggests that apprentices are explicitly protected from redundancy – and that making an apprentice redundant would put the employer in breach of contract.

Legal precedent has established that a firm is likely to be found to be in breach of contract if they dismiss an apprentice on the grounds that they can no longer afford to keep them on. This obviously has major implications. To begin with, it means that it may be impossible to legally make an apprentice redundant. It also means that businesses who do make apprentices redundant may be forced to make significant payments to the apprentice in question. In one case, the apprentice was awarded not just the wages they would have been paid if their contract had been fulfilled – but also an extra settlement to represent the fact that they are less ‘employable’ than they would have been if they had completed their training.

What is the Difference Between Traditional and Modern?

Until recently, there had been a distinction made between apprentices’ rights under ‘traditional’ apprenticeships and so-called ‘modern’ apprenticeships. It was widely understood that under a traditional apprenticeship, the apprentice was protected from redundancy. But it was thought that modern apprenticeships did not include the same provisions.

Recent cases have suggested, however, that ordinary redundancy is not permitted in modern apprenticeships. You should therefore not presume that you can legally make an apprentice redundant simply because theirs is a modern apprenticeship.

So When can I Dismiss an Apprentice?

So, legal precedent has suggested that ordinary redundancy is not permissible in an apprenticeship. This does not mean, however, that there are no grounds under which you can dismiss an apprentice.

You can legally dismiss an apprentice on the grounds of, for example, gross misconduct. Similarly, if they break the terms of the contract then it may be fair and reasonable to dismiss them.

It is vitally important to remember, though, that dismissing an apprentice on spurious grounds simply because you cannot afford to keep them on is likely to end up with you making a significant financial settlement to them. You must have your own disciplinary and dismissal procedures drawn up, and circulated to employees. These must be followed at all times, and must adhere to the Acas Codes of Practice. More information on this is available elsewhere on this site.

How Can I Protect Myself?

The most important way in which you can protect yourself is simply to understand the costs associated with hiring and employing an apprentice. All too often, businesses take on apprentices only to find that they cannot afford to keep them. Given the legal situation, this is a very bad idea indeed.

You should also remember that there is significant financial help available for businesses that wish to take on apprentices. It is often possible, depending on the age of the apprentice, to have the entire cost of their training met by the National Apprenticeship Service. You must understand, however, that you will still have to pay them – and you will have to find the money for this, and other expenditures like National Insurance Contributions, within your own budgets.

As with all aspects of employment law, if you are in any doubt it is vital that you seek independent advice before taking action.

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Hello, my son's apprenticeship is coming to an end after 3 years level 3 carpentry, his employer has stated that there won't be a job when it ends. Does the employer have to put this in writing?
Tina - 10-Sep-19 @ 9:27 AM
Hi my 19 yr old son has had his hrs cut twice in the last few weeks from 30 to 13. His boss has taken on his own son as an apprentice (2nd july) and 2 weeks later cut my sons hrs because there wasn't enough work. And last week cut them again to 13 hrs. Does my son have any rights? It's a small family run business (just the 3 of them) it just seems very unfair to take on another apprentice then cut my sons hrs in half when he's been there a yr. Any advice would be much appreciated. Thanks
Lcoole - 21-Aug-19 @ 10:36 PM
My grandson has to attend a meeting to discuss reduntancy, his employers are trading at a loss. He has been informed he can take a union rep or a work colleague with him. He is due to fininsh his apprenticeship in five weeks time. How does he stand?5
Mimph - 3-Aug-19 @ 8:10 AM
Hi. I just wanted to know how often the companies are allowed to make the apprentices redundant? Is it legal to make redundancy every 3 months ? Is there any policy to force companies to follow regarding the period between redundancies?
Lili - 17-Jun-19 @ 12:02 AM
My 19 year old son has just told me his firm have given him a weeks notice, after being on with them just short of 6 months, all this after being asked to sort out his college, which he has done, and they just needed to pay the fees. Any advice would be appreciated
Sean - 5-Jun-19 @ 6:43 PM
I am at the end of my level 3 my boss has closed the salon my tutor isn't responding to my calls and messages I haven't been paid this month I do not know what to do please advise thanks
Kate - 18-May-19 @ 12:38 PM
Hi, my son apprenticeship has been terminated into his 2nd year due to a downturn in business and 12 employees in total were asked to leave, although my son was the only apprentice.He had an unblemished record and past all exams with distinction.Please could you advise of our rights and how to proceed. Many thanks.
Michael Day - 20-Feb-19 @ 8:07 AM
My daughter is on her 2nd year of an apprentiship and due to her being pregnant her company are treating her unfairly, they have cut her hours due to costing of the nursery and are now making her redundant as she has a doctors letter to say she is fit for work but amended duties is this legal
Dp - 6-Feb-19 @ 11:19 AM
My stepson is in his his third year of an apprenticeship and the company who he is working for has gone into liquidation. What are is rights. What can we do.
Jools - 11-Nov-18 @ 1:39 PM
Hi. My son started an apprenticeship in July and has just been told he's been laid off due to not enough work and the company isn't making enough money to keep him on. What are my son's next steps?He still hasn't been paid fully for the days he has already worked. Thanks
Lozza - 3-Nov-18 @ 12:55 PM
Hi I am looking for advise on my 16 year old son he started a apprentership with a bus company and has been finished now due to them having no work I was sent this link what are the next steps in this position
Shaz - 31-Oct-18 @ 8:53 AM
Hi my son who is 19 and has disabilities and is in the middle of an apprenticeship came home last week to say that he had been given a two week notice as they can not afford to keep him on, this would leave him not being able to complete his apprenticeship as he has to be observed doing certain tasks that only get done in the placement please advise
Lilly - 22-Oct-18 @ 8:41 AM
Hi my son is 16 he started a 2year apprentership this year and has now been laid off due to no work he is trying to get a job but obviously carnt pay lodge and we get no support for him is thier any help we can get please he is gutted
Shaz - 22-Oct-18 @ 8:39 AM
Hi my son who is 19 and had disabilities works as an apprentice in a garage came home last week to say he had been given two weeks notice as they have said they can not afford to keep him on. I found the letter from college which has a start date 11/9/17 and end date 28/6/19 and without the placement he will not be able to complete his apprenticeship please advise
Lilly - 22-Oct-18 @ 8:35 AM
Just after some advise my daughter has come home today saying that the company she has an apprenticeship with is releasing her as it’s kinda not working out as they thoughtand that they thought she would be further on than what she is - only start her course on 26 sept, she did her A levels in business studies and her apprenticeship is accountancy . they started her employment back end of July beginning of aug, they have said she cancontinue to do her course just want some advise if they can do that
Fifi - 19-Oct-18 @ 6:15 PM
My Daughter was 16 and taken on as an ' Apprentice ' in September 2017. She was paid Apprentice wages.On 24th November 2017 she was put on an 18 month NVQ training course with an end dateof 24th May 2019. She has just been told her apprenticeship will end on the 21st October but given no reason why.She can' remember ever being givenany of the formal contacts / deeds that an apprenticeship requires. A series of request for these ( which we suspect don't exist ) have simply been ignored. What remedies does she haveas she is half way through her qualification and if she cant complete it as sheneeds to be working to do so she facesa wastedyear of her life ?
looiebelle - 28-Sep-18 @ 12:43 PM
I am a union official, one of my second year apprentice’s has been threatened with redundancy and a two week process has begun.Are there any recent precedent ‘s/test cases I can use whilst representing him. Many thanks John
Thomo - 26-Sep-18 @ 5:42 PM
Hi, my son has just started the second year of a fixed 2 year apprenticeship (well it’s actually a supported internship) and he has come home today extremely worried because there is talk of redundancies and his job has been mentioned “as there just isn’t enough money to keep paying the wages”. I always thought apprenticeships were protected, can you please offer any advice. Because my son has special needs he has taken this really badly and is currently panicking and full of anxiety so it would be really nice to be able to reassure him with some good, positive news (hopefully). Many thanks
suzif1 - 8-Sep-18 @ 1:46 AM
Hi, my 17 year old stepson started an apprenticeship about 3 months ago. He left 6th Form in order to do this. During his time with the company, to my knowledge, there has been no contact with any course tutor, and there is nobody on sight to oversee his apprenticeship course either, so we've been getting a little suspicious as to why his course hasn't started yet. He has basically been very cheap labour. Today, the lad has gone into work to be told they are letting him go, apparently immediately, because they have to cut costs! Needless to say he is feeling a little lost at the moment. Where does he stand exactly, because the impression I get when reading the information on this sight, is that this company are not exactly sticking to the rules. There has been no issues with his work as far as I know, so no warnings or disciplinary action at any point, and he certainly hasn't done anything grossly out of order to warrant immediate dismissal. By giving the reason of they need to cut costs, they're making him redundant aren't they, and I didn't think they could do that? Plus surely he is entitled to some kind of notice period? And shouldn't he have all this in writing? As far as I know at present, this has all been verbal, which again I think is very poor on their part. I feel that this company are banking on his ignorance to what his rights are, in order to suit themselves, and have not kept up their end of the bargain. Have you any advice on this situation please, because it's devastating to my stepson and his father, and feels so wrong on so many levels!
Mavis - 25-Jul-18 @ 4:32 PM
@Shann - you may be able to find another employer who will take you on so that you can finish the course.
Rhia - 17-Apr-18 @ 2:43 PM
Hi. I was an apprentice at a salon and went into do my training today and got made redundant. Because they couldn't afford to keep me on! My course was for 2 years but only done 7 month! What rights have I got?
Shann - 16-Apr-18 @ 11:33 PM
hi my daughter is an apprentice hairdresser, she started in july 2016 and found out she was pregnant summer 2017. she is due her baby 14 feb this yr and worked up until 20th jan. her boss is moving premises and has said she doesn't need an apprentice now. my daughter has only planned to take 6 months maternity leave and im gutted that she will have to find somewhere else to finish her apprentice. she hasn't had any sick days has made most of her appointments on her day off and I feel that she is being treated unfairly. can someone let me know if this is legal to make her redundant because her boss is moving to a smaller premise
ash - 24-Jan-18 @ 9:15 AM
My son started an apprenticeship in september & the company has now called in administrators.My question is what would happen to him if the company becomes insolvent?
Dustdevil - 23-Nov-17 @ 9:39 AM
Hi. My son is in his second year as an apprentice joiner. Only recently he was informed he was being kept on with the company he works with for his second year, and also that his wages would rise. He was absolutely over the moon! He loves the job. Today however he was told he was being made redundant due to the fact that the professional joiner who was his mentor for the training had to leave the company on medical terms. Here's the kicker. His mentor hasn't worked for the company since last September 2016, at which time he was diagnosed with Cancer! At this point my son was asked to partner with another professional and learn from him, which he has done for the last year. Recently his initial mentor has had to leave the company altogether as he is now 100% unfit to come back to work, so if you like he is now off their books. Today my son was informed that the reason he was being made redundant was because his initial mentor couldn't come back to work! So in a nutshell, his mentor who hasn't worked for the company since last September due to Cancer is only now being paid off as unfit. My son who has been trained by another professional all that time is also now being made redundant as his original mentor who he hasn't seen for 11 months is unable to come back to work. I believe something is off with this, and the fact they are using someone's illness as an excuse to let him go is even more off!! Off topic, I wish his mentor all the best of luck for the future with his treatment and feel his reason for departure is more than credible.
Symie - 4-Aug-17 @ 4:27 PM
Hi, Yesterday my daughter was told she was being made redundant,she works in a school and was recently taken over by Best,which is an Academy,they simply told her they couldn't afford to pay her next term. She started her NVQ3 in October and has been told she has to work until the middle of August as she covers a holiday club. She found out yesterday from gossip in the staff room when she arrived to work. As she was out at a tornament all day she was the only apprentice not told(there are 5 of them). Another apprentice informed her she was losing her job,it was then the Head decided to call her in into her office to let her know,but she obviously knew already! Terrible work practice. Can you advise please.
Karen - 29-Jun-17 @ 1:59 PM
I am in an apprenticeship. I started July 2016 and work for a not for profit association. We agreed to make it a 14-month apprenticeship so I would finish in September and have plenty of time to do the college work. However, in February I got told that they wouldn't be keeping me on after the apprenticeship is complete due to not having enough money in their budget. I made the decision to cut my apprenticeship down to a year and a day and now working even harder to complete the college work. What rights do I have? Is this being made redundant? Isn't there a rule that companies should have a permanent role to offer apprentices after they have completed their apprenticeship? Please help me if you can.
danni - 26-May-17 @ 11:01 AM
I have recently been mare redundant from my mechanical engineering apprenticeship. I did not receive any notice or any redundancy pay. I was on holiday and found out from a friend that the company was closing down and I had to contact my manager before he was willing to tell me. Is this legal? What should i do?
Daniel - 27-Sep-16 @ 2:57 PM
Hi my son was in his last year of his welding apprenticeship and the company has went into administration ... He has finished the collage side of the apprenticeship but needs to finish the next 9months or so in the work place to get his final papers... He has not been given this do to the company going into administration... How does he stand? We live in Dundee and there is just no companies in the area where he can finish his time...
Mazzee - 22-Aug-16 @ 9:14 PM
Heather - Your Question:
My daughter started a apprenticeship only 2 weeks ago. She received a email that they have to let her go. She has not received any reason for miss conduct or unable to carry out the job satisfactory. We have received nothing. The first week she did overtime everyday. As a employer myself to over 30 casual staff I can't believe company's are treating vunarable adults in such a terrible way. We only want a reason so she can take on board to help her with her next employment.

Our Response:
I am sorry to hear this. I suggest in the first instance you look at her contract and read the terms and conditions of her probationary period and if the terms do not co-incide with the way your daughter was dismissed, then I suggest you give ACAS a call. Unfortunately, dismissal while on a probationary period is legal, but one weeks notice is usually the norm. Does she have an apprenticeship provider that could look into the situation on her behalf? Or your daughter or you could write directly to the company and ask for the reasons why she was dismissed.
AnApprenticeship - 3-Jun-16 @ 9:56 AM
Hi. Working in education, I'm familiar with a lot of the rules around apprenticeships. However, what I'm interested in knowing is can an employer change existing employees with I assume contracts of employment to an apprenticeships with I assume apprenticeship agreements? It's just more detail on having existing employees do apprenticeships. Thanks
Paul - 3-Jun-16 @ 12:19 AM
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