Apprentices and Redundancy

26 May 2021

Apprenticeships are a great way to build a highly-skilled workforce. Many organisations benefit from utilising apprentices to provide them with workers with tailor-made skill sets.

However, not all things work out as planned. Redundancies are sometimes an unfortunate reality of running a business, and apprentices may be one of the first roles you consider letting go.

But can an employer make an apprentice redundant? And if so, what are the surrounding legalities? We’ll explore this and more below.

Can an apprentice be made redundant?

You, and your apprentices, may wonder, can an employer make an apprentice redundant? After all, apprentices are technically employees of the company, and if there is a diminished need for them to conduct a role, you may consider if a redundancy situation is necessary.

However, you must go forward with care. There is a significant body of legal opinion that suggests that contract law explicitly protects apprentices from redundancy. That making an apprentice redundant would put the employer in breach of contract.

So, when making an apprentice redundant, you must first consider if they are under a contract of apprenticeship, or an apprenticeship agreement.

Apprenticeship agreement (England and Wales)

In England and Wales, we manage an apprentice under a specific apprenticeship agreement. The answer to the question can you make an apprentice redundant in these areas is more simple: yes you can.

Apprentices dismissed through redundancy with less than six months left to complete their training, or who have completed 75% of this, can receive funding from the government to continue in their training for at least 12 weeks until they find alternative employment.

Also, an apprentice with less than 12 months to go can be dismissed through redundancy and then taken on under a different apprenticeship agreement in the company, provided they work and receive training that is of the same standard what they were receiving previously.

Contract of apprenticeship (Scotland)

In Scotland, they employ apprentices under a common law contract of apprenticeship. This contract is like an employment contract but has specific terms within it that govern the relationship between apprentices and their employers.

Under this contract, apprentice redundancy cannot take place in the same way as a normal redundancy procedure. You cannot dismiss an apprentice through redundancy unless the business closes or undergoes a fundamental change in character.

Do apprentices get redundancy pay?

As apprentices can only claim statutory redundancy pay if they have at least two years of service, it is unlikely that they will be able to claim this pay. However, if they have the required length of service, they will be entitled to it.

In Scotland, if you do not renew the contract of apprenticeship, employment law would class this as a dismissal for some other substantial reason and not redundancy. Meaning redundancy pay would also not be payable.

Apprentice lay offs

If you don’t have enough work for your employees, you may need to consider:

  • Lay-offs (sending employees home temporarily.)
  • Short-time working (reducing employees' working hours.)

By law, employers can lay off employees or put them on short-time working if it included in the employee's employment contract or there are agreements already in place.

If you temporarily lay off an apprentice, the apprenticeship continues. For example, during a period of furlough. If you furloughed an apprentice, they can still take on learning and training.

If the break lasts up to four weeks, during self-isolation for instance, it shouldn’t affect the apprenticeship. A break that lasts four weeks or longer has consequences on the apprenticeship end-date.

Expert support on redundancy and dismissal with Peninsula

There are a lot of rules to remember regarding the different ways you can terminate an employee’s contract. Getting it wrong can cause unfair dismissal claims and expensive tribunals.

Let our expert HR team help you. We can advise on the steps you need to take. We’ll make sure you know the steps and remove the stress from what is an already difficult situation.

Peninsula clients get access to 24/7 HR advice to lay out the steps you need to take and make sure you have all the paperwork in order.

And if you’re not yet a client, you can still enjoy a free advice call from one of our business experts. Simply call us on  0800 028 2420

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