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Terminating Apprenticeship Early: Employee & Employer Rights

Terminating an apprenticeship early

Ending an apprenticeship contract early or apprenticeship agreement can be a tricky thing – especially if both parties don’t agree. Where there is a mutual agreement that the apprenticeship hasn’t worked out, then there usually is very little consequence for either party once the apprenticeship ends. The problem begins when one party wants to end the apprenticeship and the other doesn’t. Employment law rights usually become a sticking point, and an employment tribunal may commence.

To avoid the situation becoming nasty, we’ll cover the rights of both the employer and the employee when an apprenticeship agreement ends to ensure everyone is aware of their responsibilities and the consequences of failing to meet those responsibilities.

What Is An Apprenticeship?

Before we start looking at the termination of an apprenticeship, let’s first get to grips with what an apprenticeship actually is. Essentially, an apprenticeship is a way for an individual to get practical experience on-the-job, whilst supporting that experience with knowledge training in the classroom.

An apprentice is an employee of the business, but they also study towards certain qualifications which will benefit the business in the long run, too. Usually an approved English apprenticeship agreement will detail the nature of the work, their compensation (e.g. pay) and other important clauses just as a regular employment contract would.

Apprenticeships can cover a range of qualifications, too, from GCSE to degree-level. They’re popular in a range of sectors, such as:

  • business
  • IT
  • marketing
  • engineering
  • transport
  • and more


Most apprentices are treated with the exact same rights as other employees at the employer’s business, meaning similar processes are in place should problems occur. Employers also have to offer more support to apprentices than they would other employees, as they must allow the proper time for an apprentice to undergo the relevant training in the classroom with their training provider.

what is an apprenticeship

What Happens When An Apprenticeship Doesn’t Work Out?

When a business hires an apprentice, it won’t always work out – and the same is true of other employees, too. Perhaps you both are in agreement that the apprenticeship hasn’t worked out, so both agree to part ways happily.

However, there may be times when the apprentice wants to walk away from the apprenticeship they’ve signed up to, even though they’re contractually obligated to complete it as per their employment and apprenticeship agreement, and the employer may still want the apprentice to fulfil their role.

Likewise, when an employer terminates the apprenticeship contract due to being unhappy with the performance, the apprentice may have wanted to stay.

When either of these two scenarios happen, there are some legal issues that must be considered by both parties, and it’s important that both apprentice and employer act according to their responsibilities to avoid issues such as an unfair dismissal claim or being in breach of contract.

Types Of Apprenticeship Contracts

The key to understanding your responsibilities and legal obligation as either an employer or an apprentice is knowing exactly which type of apprenticeship contract you’re dealing with:

  • contract of apprenticeship
  • apprenticeship agreement


Both are different and are treated differently when the agreement or contract is terminated early.

Contract Of ApprenticeshipA contract of apprenticeship is not a contract that can be terminated easily by either party, as they are often a fixed term apprenticeship, meaning there is a defined timeframe for which the contract will last and it focuses on training at the heart of it. Because they are common law contracts, they can be put together in a variety of different ways, creating a legal headache for both parties if one person tries to leave the contract early. Often, it is only extreme misconduct that can bring a contract of apprenticeship to an end early.
Apprenticeship AgreementApprenticeship agreements follow the government’s legislation and ‘apprenticeship framework’, and employers may receive funding or an apprenticeship levy for offering such apprenticeships. Here an apprentice has the exact same employment rights as an ordinary employee, meaning an employer can dismiss them following the usual fair dismissal procedure, and an apprentice can end the employment contract with the proper notice period.

Since apprentices on a contract of apprenticeship arrangement are so nuanced, it’s best to check both parties’ rights with a legal professional if something goes wrong.

What Are My Rights As An Apprentice?

First, let’s look at your legal rights as an apprentice. You’ll usually be classed as an employee just as those around you who are hired on a normal contract, and that means you’ll be entitled to many of the same benefits as your coworkers.

These benefits will usually include:

  • At least 20 days paid holiday per year (pro rata’d for part time apprenticeships)
  • Sick pay entitlement
  • Statutory Maternity / Paternity Pay and leave
  • Rest breaks
  • The national living wage for apprentices, or the national minimum wage
  • An employment contract
  • Health and safety protection


You’ll also notice some additional rights as an apprentice compared to other employees at the business. This is mostly to do with you being compensated for your time studying in the classroom with your apprentice training provider. Here, you’ll be paid for attending the classroom and working towards your apprenticeship, and this must amount to 20% of your working hours.

For example, an apprentice might work 4 days on-the-job and spend 1 day in a classroom, but must still be paid for the full 5 days by the employer.

Can An Employer Terminate An Apprenticeship Early?

Of course, things differ depending on the exact nature of the contract or apprenticeship agreement in place, but since most apprentices in England and Wales are under an apprenticeship agreement, we’ll consider it from this perspective first.

An apprentice employed in this way may notice a clause in their agreement that allows for the employer to terminate the agreement early for various reasons. Some common ones may be based on performance, or due to redundancy to reduce business spending to save the business during a difficult financial period. Poor performance can lead to the termination of your apprenticeship sooner than expected, so it’s always important to work as hard as you would if you were a regular employee.

Essentially, an apprentice is subject to the same terms and conditions as any other employee, meaning they can be dismissed in the same way, too.

What About Contract Of Apprenticeships?

It’s far more difficult for an employer to terminate a contract of apprenticeship early because they are for a fixed period already, meaning both parties have agreed to being in this contract for the same amount of time. This cannot be altered unless there is an extreme circumstance.

Here, extreme poor performance showing that the apprentice simply doesn’t have the necessary skills or knowledge to complete the apprenticeship will need to be demonstrated by the employer to terminate the apprentice early, for example.

Another example may be extreme gross misconduct which means continuing the agreement would be unsafe or unwise for either party.

Whilst it’s more difficult to terminate an apprentice employed under a contract of apprenticeship early, it’s not impossible.

Can An Employee Terminate Their Apprenticeship Early?

Under an apprenticeship agreement, yes, the apprentice can leave whenever they wish, provided they give the necessary notice to avoid being in breach of contract.

If an apprentice wants to end their apprenticeship early, they can do so by giving the necessary notice stipulated in their employment contract.

It’s quite easy for an employee to end their apprenticeship ahead of time in this circumstance. But it’s important to remember that the apprentice won’t receive the qualification they were working towards if they decide to leave early.

Can Employees Leave Early During A Contract Of Apprenticeship?

Just as it’s more difficult for employers to end a contract early with apprentices under a contract of apprenticeship, it’s more difficult for the employee to walk away early, too.

When you sign a contract of apprenticeship, you agree to be an apprentice with that business for a specific amount of time. They fund your training, and you get to have on-the-job experience you wouldn’t have otherwise had to make you a valuable asset to the team. Ending that agreement early is hard because both parties agreed to the contract length before signing.

Now, nobody can make an apprentice stay in the workplace, but there may be consequences to leaving early here. If employed under a contract of employment, an apprentice will likely have to pay back some of the training costs incurred by the employer if they’re leaving early. Other compensation may also be sought.

terminate apprenticeship early

Can You Be Dismissed From An Apprenticeship?

You can only be dismissed as an apprentice under a contract of apprenticeship in the most extreme cases of misconduct.

For employees under an apprenticeship agreement, you can be dismissed for a variety of reasons – all of which are the same as other employees at the business who are not apprentices.

Can You Make An Apprentice Redundant?

When businesses face financial difficulties redundancies are common – but can you make an apprentice redundant?

For a contract of apprenticeship redundancy is only an option if the business is closing down or it’s no longer possible to provide training due to serious financial difficulties. For an apprenticeship agreement, redundancies are permitted to save business costs where necessary and given the proper notice is served to the employee.

When apprentices under apprenticeship agreements are made redundant, the UK government will still fund their training for 12 weeks to give them time to find alternative employment to finish their apprenticeship and receive the qualifications they were working towards.

What Happens After An Apprenticeship Ends?

If an apprenticeship ends due to completion, more often than not the apprentice will receive a new contract of employment that’s the same as other employees in the business, and they’ll now be a fully-fledged employee with a new fixed term contract.

When an apprenticeship ends early, both parties will simply go their separate ways.

Related Questions

How Many Hours Should An Apprentice Work?

Most apprenticeships in the UK will follow a typical working week: between 30 and 40 hours. 20% of this time must be spent training or studying. The other 80% is to be spent at work, learning on the job. Part time apprenticeships may be possible when negotiated with an employer.

How Much Do Apprentices Get Paid?

It depends on the employer. Most employers in the UK nowadays offer apprenticeships at a similar pay level to other employees in the business to attract new talent. Even when they don’t offer higher pay than ordinary, employers are obliged to pay the National Minimum Wage for the employee’s age bracket as a minimum.

Who Pays An Apprentice’s Wages?

The employer. However, employers may receive funding for offering apprenticeships at their business, to help cover the training costs.

Ending An Apprenticeship Early

The circumstances surrounding an early termination of an apprenticeship is important, as too is the nature of the apprenticeship that’s in place.

If you’re unsure if you’re able to terminate an apprenticeship early, as either an employer or an employee, then seek professional advice from a legal expert who specialises in contract law. This will prevent you from breaching contracts or breaking laws, and ensure no legal action will follow the termination of an apprenticeship.


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