How to dismiss an apprentice

In this guide, we’ll look at what the process is and the rights and responsibilities both you and an apprentice have.

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Can you dismiss someone from an apprenticeship early?

Hiring an apprentice can add great value to an organisation. It can improve productivity and quality of service. By growing and developing talent within the business.

But, hiring an apprentice doesn’t always work out and sometimes an individual may be fired from an apprenticeship early.

In this guide, we’ll look at what the process is and the rights and responsibilities both you and an apprentice have.

An apprentice in an office job being taught on a laptop by a manager

Page Contents

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    What is an apprenticeship?

    An apprenticeship is where someone is employed to do a job whilst studying for a qualification.

    An apprentice is obligated by their employer to learn a trade. Meaning the business must educate and guide them in it.

    Apprenticeships are a popular cost-effective option for employing new talent, even more so since the apprenticeship levy was introduced.

    Training is set based on what qualification an apprentice needs to complete.

    There are four qualifications that an apprentice can gain, these include:

    ●      Functional qualifications – GCSE level.

    ●      National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) – from level 2 to level 7.

    ●      Technical qualifications – BTEC and OCR Nationals.

    ●      Academic qualifications – Higher National Certificate (HNC), Higher National Diploma (HND), foundation degree, Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees.

    An apprentice in a welding work shop learning the trade from a senior welder

    What are the apprenticeship standards in England, Scotland and Wales?

    Apprenticeship standards are the skills and knowledge that are set out by employer groups called ‘trailblazers.’

    These skills are required of the apprentice and a day-to-day plan is created for their job role.

    Standards are ongoingly published as they are developed and approved.

    An apprentice on a laptop with two senior members on the office taking notes and looking over the apprentices work.

    What is an apprenticeship agreement?

    Apprenticeship agreements are available in England, Wales and Scotland. Apprentices enjoy the same employment rights as other employees on this apprenticeship type.

    This is the most common type of apprenticeship arrangement and is seen as a modern approach.

    An apprenticeship agreement is a legal requirement in England and Wales. It’s where an agreement document is drawn up and signed by both the employer and the apprentice.

    The employer must also write and sign a commitment statement with the apprentice and the external training provider.

    An agreement document must be agreed to before the apprenticeship begins. The employer and the apprentice will both receive a copy of these documents.

    It must include:

    ●      The start and end date of the apprenticeship.

    ●      The line of work they will be undertaking.

    ●      How much apprenticeship training will be provided.

    ●      The qualification that they will be working towards.

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    What is a commitment statement document?

    A commitment statement is written evidence of what is expected from all parties in the training process.

    It should include:

    ●      What the employer, training provider, and apprentice should expect.

    ●      What will be offered during the apprentice’s employment.

    ●      The apprentice’s training schedule.

    ●      The queries and complaints procedure should any issues arise.

    An apprentice signing a commitment statement document with a gold pen.

    What is an apprenticeship contract?

    A contract of apprenticeship is only available in Scotland. Apprentices have enhanced rights and protection against dismissals on a contract.

    A contract of apprenticeship is rarely chosen today in favour of more modern arrangements such as apprenticeship agreements.

    An apprentice signing an apprenticeship agreement sat at a desk in an office with a employer.

    What employment rights do apprentices have?

    Apart from two elements, apprentices have the same employment rights as employees. These include less time working in the job role due to training. And more thorough steps taken by the employer before dismissal on a contract of apprenticeship.

    Employment rights include:

    ●      Paid holidays.

    ●      Sick pay.

    ●      Health & Safety protection.

    As an employer you are also responsible for:

    ●      Providing a contract of employment.

    ●      Pay – national minimum wage which includes the apprentice rate wage.

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    Can you dismiss an apprentice early?

    As an employer, you can only dismiss an apprenticeship early if the apprentice isn’t meeting the expectations of the business. A fair process must be followed. You can also end an apprenticeship early due to redundancy on an apprenticeship contract.

    On an apprenticeship agreement, early dismissal is the same as an ordinary employee. Again, a fair process would have to be followed.

    An apprentice and an employer shake hands in an office.

    When can you terminate an apprenticeship early?

    Under UK law there are numerous ways to end an agreement on fair and reasonable grounds.

    These include:

    ●      The employer needs to make the job role redundant.

    ●      Settlement agreements or apprentice resignations.

    ●      Capability processes.

    How to dismiss an apprentice on an apprenticeship contract

    On an apprenticeship contract, the apprentice needs to receive more support and greater steps before an employer can think about a dismissal.

    These are the top 4 reasons you can end an apprenticeship contract. Look below.

    The apprenticeship contract has come to an end

    An employer has the right to dismiss an apprentice once their fixed-term contract has ended. Most apprentices will be on this. You can only do this if you do not want to give them a permanent position within the business.

    This is not possible if a permanent contract is signed agreeing to regular employee status, once they complete their training.

    A settlement agreement

    A settlement agreement is where an employer wants to dismiss an apprentice on terms that are mutually agreed to.

    These agreements are used when the employer and apprentice feel that the apprenticeship employment is no longer working.

    Mutual consent from both parties is needed to bring the apprenticeship employment to an end.

    The apprentice’s job role is being made redundant

    Redundancy is a type of dismissal. As an employer, you will take this option if you need to reduce your workforce.

    An apprentice is dismissed for redundancy either because:

    ●      The employer has ceased or intends to cease the business.

    ●      The requirement of the business has changed. Where the employee’s job role or work location has ceased or is expected to cease.

    Therefore, you will need to prove the following to fairly dismiss an apprentice:

    ●      Prove that the business has endured fundamental change.

    ●      The business has stopped operating entirely.

    You cannot make an apprentice redundant for any other reason. For example, poor performance is not redundancy. Instead, you would need to follow other capability and dismissal procedures.

    A stressed employer in front of a laptop in an office holds their head.

    Capability processes

    Being incapable to perform a job is a genuine and valid reason for dismissal. It is, however, one of the hardest ways to dismiss an apprentice fairly.

    An employer needs to show clear evidence that an apprentice is incapable of crucial tasks to be dismissed.

    To achieve a fair capability dismissal process you need to show evidence that:

    ●      You have provided them with substantial training and assistance.

    ●      The apprentice has not been able to complete what has been asked of them.

    The apprentice’s capability is not the only fair dismissal procedure. There are 3 valid reasons altogether.

    These include:

    ●      The apprentice’s capability

    ●      Redundancy

    ●      Anything that legally prevents the apprentice from doing their job. Such as not having a driving licence when it is needed.

    There are other fair reasons, but these are usually called ‘substantial reasons’.

    These include cases such as being dismissed on a maternity cover contract. When the cover period has ended.

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    How to end an apprenticeship agreement

    Apprentices have the same employment rights as ordinary employees on this agreement. They can be dismissed for all the reasons just discussed and more. But only if a fair dismissal process is undertaken.

    As an employer, you must still follow fair disciplinary procedures before a dismissal.

    A fair procedure includes several written warnings. You should also give the apprentice time to appeal the decision.

    If the apprentice does decide to appeal, a proper and thorough investigation must be undertaken.

    If the apprentice is still unhappy with the decision, they may consider claiming unfair dismissal. They can only do this if they have worked for 2 years of service.

    What are an apprentice’s rights if they are unfairly dismissed?

    Apprentices have the right to claim unfair dismissal on both an apprenticeship contract and an apprenticeship agreement.

    This means that they are protected in cases of unfair dismissals.

    An employer stressed with their hands on their temples in an office.

    What are an apprentice’s rights on an apprenticeship agreement?

    Dismissals are conducted under ordinary employment law which is the same as a regular employee. This only applies if fair procedures are met.

    What are an apprentice’s rights on an apprenticeship contract?

    As this type of agreement comes with enhanced rights, it can be harder for an employer to dismiss an apprentice.

    If they are dismissed for misconduct reasons, they can appeal the decision. This may lead to the case being taken to an Employment Tribunal.

    Are apprentices entitled to a minimum notice period?

    You must give an apprentice a notice period if they have worked for you for more than one month. This is a legal requirement. But it also allows the apprentice to find alternative employment elsewhere.

    Notice periods when being dismissed or made redundant are called statutory notice periods. These are the legal minimum notices you need to give an apprentice.

    If an apprentice has worked for:

    ●      Less than 1 month – no notice to dismiss.

    ●      1 month to 2 years – 1 week statutory notice.

    ●      2 to 12 years – 1 week for each full year they have worked.

    ●      12 years or more – 12 weeks statutory notice.

    Apprentices’ contracts may specify a longer notice period than the statutory minimum. This will depend on what is stated in your documentation.

    Someone fired from apprenticeship early puts their belongings in a box in an office.

    What happens if you don’t act fairly in an apprentice dismissal?

    An unfair dismissal can be detrimental to a business. Firstly, you might have to reinstate and/or pay the apprentice compensation. You may also face reputational damages.

    This may harm current employees’ morale. They may feel unable to address any concerns in the future due to thinking they will be dismissed too.

    Get expert advice on dismissing an apprentice

    It’s important to have a clear dismissal procedure outlined in your employee handbook. This will establish what your employees and apprentices can expect regarding dismissal procedures.

    If you have any questions, we provide free independent legal advice. Click here. Or simply give us a call on 0800 152 2287 .

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    We’re here to answer any questions you might have with expert ease.

    The only difference between the two is that there are more thorough steps an employer must consider before dismissing an apprentice on an apprenticeship contract.

    Dismissing an apprentice because of redundancy, a settlement agreement or because the apprenticeship has ended is unlikely to ruin a person’s career prospects.

    Capability processes might be damaging. Only if the apprentice struggled to complete the work that was part of the job role. 

    This type of apprenticeship arrangement is only available in Scotland. It is a contract of apprenticeship. 

    The English apprenticeship agreement was introduced in 2015. It’s the apprenticeship arrangement that is used in England.

    Disciplinary and dismissal procedures are the same as a typical employee working in your business.

    A fair disciplinary process/procedure is when an employer wants to deal with an apprentice formally. This is because of unacceptable behaviour such as misconduct or their performance such as capability. 

    To make the process fair an employer must follow the ACAS code of practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures at the very least.

    Yes, they can. Gross misconduct is when an apprentice has done something very serious. Some examples are fraud, physical violence and gross negligence.


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