Legal experts are advising companies to study the contracts they issue to modern apprentices because they are now reliant on conditions explicitly stated in those documents to have grounds for dismissal. If these conditions are not met, the employer can be sued for compensation up to the total wages the apprentice would have earned for the remainder of the training period, for the loss of training and for loss of status.
“That is not to say that a contract of apprenticeship can never be terminated, simply that an employer will need to be on guard when so doing and should seek legal advice before taking that action,” says John Holmes of Taylor & Emmet solicitors. Holmes advises members of the Institute of the Motor Industry through its Motor Industry Magazine.
“Key to this will be the wording of the apprenticeship agreements, which usually sets out the circumstances when termination is permissible and what ongoing obligations rest on the employer to seek an alternative employer to complete the training period.”
This guidance follows the Court of Appeal’s ruling in Flett v Matheson in February, which gave modern apprentices the same legal protection as common law apprentices. Previously, modern apprentices were equal to any other employee and could only claim for loss of earnings up to the statutory cap on compensation.
IMI spokesman Stuart Brooks says that while there is some concern that dealers will see this in a negative light, for young people the ruling may make modern apprenticeships a more attractive career path because of the increased rights this provides.