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Making an Apprentice Redundant

By: J.A.J Aaronson - Updated: 27 May 2020 | 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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[Add a Comment]
My son was furloughed in March, he has now been made redundant with immediate effect due to covid 19.I have spoken to the trainingcompany to ask for help, they said because the company fully fund his training, he can’t even carry on with his functional skills.We are at the loss, do you have any advice?
Margaret - 27-May-20 @ 8:59 AM
My son is 2 months from finishing a 3 yr electrician apprenticeship. He was furloughed in March but has now been told he is redundant. What can he do. He needs to complete the NVQ side with a employer but no one wants to take him on due to currant situations. He has done 3 years is this all for nothing. He is so close to getting a qualification. I just don’t know what to do.
Me - 13-May-20 @ 1:16 PM
Hi, Im a 20 year old lad from Sheffield and I'm currently on a level 3 advanced apprenticeship with CW fletchers aerospace and nuclear engineering, under the current circumstances with Covid19 I have been placed on the furlough retention scheme however there are speculations that reduncey are going to hit afterwards I was just wondering if I can be made redundant as I have researched different sites are telling me I can and some are saying I can't. Thank you for you time
Ryan Warner - 29-Apr-20 @ 9:10 PM
Hi there I am 20 years old doing an apprenticeship I am going on my 3rd year passed everything at college so far and a very good apprenticeship at work because of this Coronavirus I have been made redoubt due to not able to pay wages and company not making enough money how do I go aboutthis? I only have one year left after this the I am qualified but now I’ve been made redundant and now jobless I have seen things about you can’t make an apprentice refund unless you pay good amount of money does anyone know anything and could help me out?
Ghost - 25-Apr-20 @ 1:14 AM
I am Fatema Khanom aged 20. I am currently doing my level 3 childcare Apprenticeship, nearly finished. I have been working in Docklands Day Nursery Leytonstone for a year now. Due to the corona virus my work has laid us off from work from the 23/03/2020. I am not getting paid. I want to get any kind of benefit pay. What do I do?
Fatema - 1-Apr-20 @ 10:53 AM
My son was called out of his college course to speak to his manager on the phone who told him and a colleague that they were redundant on 31st March he received a letter the day before explaining they were going into consultation he had his meeting on the 16th March and today has received a letter for a further meeting Two points can they make him redundant and have they acted fairly in the order they have conducted themselves
Max - 17-Mar-20 @ 6:18 PM
My grandson was in the middle of his second year joinery apprentice, he had been subdued for a while and didn’t want to go to work, .He went to the doctors and , he said he had depression and needed to talk about it, he didn’t take any time off.That evening his boss phoned and asked what doctor had said, he told him and the boss told him to take another day off, when he went to college the day after they knew about it.Next day in work he was given a job up on a roof, when the boss came in he said get him down off that roof , I don’t want him throwing himself off, he got down and was told he was on light duties till they had a letter stating he wasn’t that badly depressed.Two days later he was called to a meeting with the boss and college,the boss asked him if his depression was anything to do with work.College said he didn’t have to answer that, but he said yes some is to do with personal life and some work, the boss then asked why.He replied honestly saying that for the last three months he hadn’t done any joinery he just did general labouring, and he felt he wasn’t learning anything.The boss then said well I don’t have enough joinery work on at the minute I’m a building firm not a joiner firm, so I suggest I terminate your employment.My grandson feels he shouldn’t of told him about his depression, because now he has lost his apprenticeship, college says if he doesn’t find another apprenticeship he will be kicked out of college, and he was doing so well, but learned more in that one day at college than he did at work.He just paid him up to that day, and I’m afraid that apprenticeships don’t come up very often in our part of north west Lancashire.Does he have any rights, can he complete his joinery course without having an apprenticeship?
Jean - 21-Jan-20 @ 11:57 PM
Is it legal to make a first year redundant because black of work? In Australia!!
Kal - 6-Dec-19 @ 4:36 PM
I started an apprenticeship and 2 weeks in I was called into a meeting and told I was being dismissed. Initially they said that it was for mobile phone usage, but I'd never been given any written or verbal warnings regarding this. I called ACAS to enter into mediation and the company told ACAS they were correct to dismiss me, as it was for gross misconduct (swearing ! there was only myself and the owner of the firm in the meeting and I didn't swear). I've now put a claim into the employment tribunal and the companies response was that I wasn't employed as an apprentice, but a minimum paid worker as the college hadn't come in to sign the forms, but I have emails from the firm offering me an apprentice job (never any mention of being employed in any other capacity). I've now completed a ET from for lost earnings and they have responded back to the tribunal saying that I was employed on an apprentice agreement and not as a traditional apprentice, so I cant claim for this. I believe I have a good claim, as I have written correspondence from them offering me an apprenticeship for 18 months, I wasn't given any warnings whilst I was there was and only myself and the owner where in the meeting where he is claiming he dismissed me for swearing (which I didn't). The company have changed their story already 3 or 4 times, but with the hearing date fast approaching, the company have now employed legal counsel. Just after some advice that I'm correct in what I'm claiming for ?
Harry - 18-Nov-19 @ 4:26 PM
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
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