Terminating an apprenticeship early? Employer & employee rights

Terminating an apprenticeship early
An apprenticeship can be a great opportunity for both an apprentice and their employer. The apprentice will learn skills which will enable them to progress in their chosen career whilst the employer has the opportunity to grow talent from within their organisation. However, sometimes apprenticeships don’t work out and the employer or apprentice may consider terminating an apprenticeship early.

In this article, we’ll discuss employer and employee rights when it comes to terminating an apprenticeship, as well as giving you a clear understanding of your roles and responsibilities.

When an apprenticeship doesn’t work out

Unfortunately, some apprenticeships just don’t work out. It could be that the apprentice decides to leave the role for personal reasons such as family, health or financial challenges, or due to dissatisfaction with the workload, quality of teaching or their job role.

Alternatively, the employer may be unhappy with the performance of the apprentice, or be forced to consider redundancies within the business due to financial issues.

There are a few legal issues you’ll need to consider when considering terminating an apprenticeship early, both from the perspective of the apprentice and the employer. Read on to learn everything that you need to know about terminating an apprenticeship early.

What is an apprenticeship?

Before we discuss how terminating an apprenticeship early works, we first need to understand the definition of an apprenticeship. An apprenticeship combines on-the-job training with classroom learning. This means that an apprentice is employed by a business whilst also studying for qualifications. This can be anything from GCSE equivalent right up to a degree level course.

Apprenticeships are available in almost every field, including business, IT marketing, engineering, transport and construction. They can take anything between one and six years to complete, depending on the level of the apprenticeship and the field of work.

An apprentice is treated as an employee. This means that they benefit from the same rights as an employee. However, an employer also has increased responsibilities towards an apprentice, including being responsible for the facilitation of their training.

Types of apprenticeship

It’s important to be aware that there are two different types of apprenticeship. These are contracts of apprenticeship and apprenticeship agreements. This is an important difference, as the two are treated differently when it comes to early termination.

Contact of apprenticeship

A contact of apprenticeship is made for a fixed term, which is defined in the contract. The contract can be created verbally and do not need to use the term ‘apprentice’ or ‘apprenticeship’. Training must be the main purpose of the arrangement to qualify as a contract of apprenticeship. These apprenticeships cannot be terminated early unless there is a case for extreme misconduct.

Apprenticeship agreement

Apprenticeship agreements follow the government ‘apprenticeship framework’, incorporating a training element which is typically delivered through an external training provider. Employers may receive funding from the government to cover part of the training cost for an apprenticeship agreement.

Unlike with a contract of apprenticeship, an apprentice under an apprenticeship agreement can be dismissed in the same way as any other employee.

What are my rights as an apprentice

Apprentices are usually classed as employees. This means that they are entitled to the same benefits and conditions as other employees in the workplace. This includes:

  • 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
Apprentices are entitled to additional rights. This includes being paid for time which is spent training or studying for their apprenticeship. This must consist of at least 20% of the apprentice’s working hours.

Can an employer terminate an apprenticeship early?

The reasons for which an employer is able to terminate an apprenticeship early will depend on the type of apprenticeship that is in place.

Most apprentices in England and Wales are under an apprenticeship agreement. This agreement may contain a clause which sets out the circumstances in which the apprenticeship may be terminated early. This could include poor performance and redundancy.

Ultimately, apprentices who are employed under an apprenticeship agreement are subject to the same terms and conditions as any other employee. This means that they can be dismissed in the same way as any other employee within the company.

If the apprentice is employed under a contact of apprenticeship, it is more difficult for an employee to terminate the apprenticeship early. This is because the apprenticeship will have a fixed duration which cannot be altered, except in extreme circumstances.

For an apprentice employed under a contract of apprenticeship to be dismissed early, the employer would need to prove that the apprentice cannot be trained. This would need to be a serious misconduct case, for example if the apprentice was purposefully disobeying direct instructions repeatedly, or by regularly neglecting their duties. This means that it can be difficult for an employer to terminate an apprenticeship early for those under a contract of apprenticeship.

Can an employee terminate their apprenticeship early?

An apprentice is free to leave an apprenticeship at any point, if required. This could be due to personal circumstances, or as a result of the apprenticeship not meeting the apprentice’s expectations.

Essentially, an apprentice is subject to the same conditions as any other employer when it comes to leaving their role. If they wish to leave the apprenticeship, they’ll need to give notice. The required notice period should be set out in the employment contract.

If the apprentice is employed under a contract of apprenticeship, the contract may state that the apprentice is required to pay back some of the training costs. However, if the apprentice is employed under an apprenticeship agreement, they will not have to pay back any money for training. This is due to the government funding that businesses receive for apprenticeship agreements.

It’s important to note that apprentices will not receive any qualifications when leaving an apprenticeship early, despite having potentially completed work towards the qualification.

Can you be sacked from an apprenticeship?

Whether or not you can be sacked from an apprenticeship will depend on the type of apprenticeship that you are undertaking and the circumstances. If you’re under a contract of apprenticeship, you can only be dismissed in the most serious of cases.

However, if you’re employed under an apprenticeship agreement, you’re treated in the same way as any other employee. This means that you can be dismissed for misconduct and performance issues.

Can you make an apprentice redundant?

If your business is undergoing changes or you’ve found yourself in financial difficulty, you may be faced with making redundancies. If you have an apprentice, you may be wondering whether you are able to make your apprentice redundant.

Whether you can make an apprentice redundant will depend on the type of apprenticeship that they’re under. An apprenticeship contract can only be terminated due to redundancy if the business closes or undergoes significant changes which mean that it is no longer possible to provide training to the apprentice.

Apprentices who have are employed under an apprentice agreement are treated in the same way as any other employee, meaning that they can be made redundant. If an apprentice is made redundant, the government will continue to fund their apprenticeship training for at least 12 weeks to give the apprentice time to find alternative employment in order to continue their apprenticeship.

What happens after an apprenticeship?

What happens after an apprenticeship ends will depend on the type of contract that the apprentice held. Some apprenticeships are offered as a fixed term contract, meaning that the apprentice’s employment will end when the term is completed.

However, the majority of apprentices who are under an apprenticeship agreement will hold a permanent contract of employment. This means that they have the same rights as any other worker within the business.

When an apprentice completes their apprenticeship, they will continue to work within the same organisation, unless they hand in their notice or are dismissed. In many circumstances, an apprentice will be given the chance to progress onto a higher level apprenticeship within the same organisation, building upon their skills further.

Related questions

How many hours should an apprentice work?

A typical apprenticeship will involve the apprentice working for between 30 and 40 hours per week. A minimum of 20% of those working hours should be spent undertaking training or studying. Part time apprenticeships may also be available, or may be negotiated with the employer for apprentices who have caring responsibilities.

How much do apprentices get paid

The minimum wage for an apprentice will depend on their age and how long they have been employed as an apprentice. For apprentices age 16-18, or aged 19 or over and in their first year, the minimum wage is £4.30 per hour. For apprentices who have completed their first year and are over 19 years of age, they are entitled to the National Minimum Wage. However, some employers may choose to pay their apprentices at a higher rate.

Who pays an apprentice’s wages?

Apprentices are paid their wages by their employer. The employer will also need to pay the apprentice for their time spent studying, which should make up at least 20% of their contracted hours. However, businesses may be entitled to claim funding from the government towards the apprentice’s training costs.

Ending an apprenticeship early

Whether or not an apprenticeship will be able to be terminated early will depend on the circumstances in which the termination has come about and the type of apprenticeship that is in place.

Irrespective of the circumstances, an apprentice is free to leave their apprenticeship at any time. They will need to refer to the notice period set out in their employment contact to do so. It can be more difficult for an employer to terminate an apprenticeship early, and it may be wise to seek specialist advice if you are considering doing so.

If you’re unsure whether you are able to terminate an apprenticeship early, either as an employer or an employee, it’s always best to seek professional advice from a solicitor who specialises in employment law. They can ensure that you aren’t breaking any laws or your contract in ending the apprenticeship early, helping you to avoid future legal action.

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