Apprenticeship Employment Protection

20 October 2021 | Blog

In the eyes of the Court, training is the main purpose of an Apprenticeship contract. This is even considered more important than the working aspect of an Apprenticeship with apprentices splitting their time between the workplace and college. It’s important to always remember that Apprentices in Scotland have important Apprenticeship employment protection in comparison to other types of employment. One being that they have the right to a minimum hourly wage. They also have more entitlements when it comes to ending employment before the fixed-term contract has come to an end.

The law states that the apprenticeship contract can only be brought to an end by a fundamental event or a serious breach of contract. This breach of contract would have to relate to the trainee making it impossible for the employer to teach them the trade.

Working Hours and Working Time Regulations

Apprentices have the same rights as every other ordinary employee when it comes to working hours. This means that apprentices aged 18 and over cannot be required to work more than 48 hours per week on average, including any overtime. However, they can voluntarily choose to work more hours if they wish to do so. Employees must also have a 20-minute break each day if they are expected to work longer than 6 hours during the day, and are entitled to a minimum of 11 hours of rest between working days.

If your employee is under 18 and of school leaving age, they may be classed as a ‘young worker’ and must not work more than 8 hours a day or 40 hours a week. You must also ensure they take a 30-minute break a day if they work more than 4.5 hours each day. They must also have a 12-hour rest between working days, and a consecutive 48 hours rest each week.

Employee Rights

Your employees who have apprenticeship roles are entitled to the same benefits as other employees. This includes:

Minimum Wage

Apprentices are entitled to receive the National Minimum Wage (NMW) or the National Living Wage (NLW) if they are aged 23 or older. The rate depends on their age and the year of their apprenticeship. This ensures that apprentices receive fair compensation for their work.

Paid Holidays

Apprentices have a holiday entitlement of a minimum of 20 days of paid holiday each year, plus bank holidays. Employers must ensure that apprentices can take time off for their well-being and to recharge.

Equal Treatment

Apprentices are legally protected against discrimination based on their age, gender, race, disability, religion, sexual orientation, or other protected characteristics. They have the same rights as other employees to work in a non-discriminatory environment.

Statutory Sick Pay

Apprentices are entitled to statutory sick pay (SSP) if they meet the eligibility criteria. This ensures that they can take time off and receive financial support if they are ill or unable to work due to illness or injury.

Health and Safety for your apprentices

Employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthy working environment for apprentices. They must adhere to health and safety regulations and take measures to protect apprentices from workplace hazards.

Training and Development

Apprentices have the right to receive high-quality training and development that aligns with the apprenticeship programme. Employers must provide adequate support and resources to help apprentices acquire the necessary skills.

Employment Contract

Apprentices should have a formal employment contract that outlines their rights, responsibilities, and terms of employment. This contract helps establish a clear understanding between the apprentice and the employer.

Employee Benefits

Any company benefits you offer to your staff such as childcare voucher schemes.


Termination of an Apprenticeship Contract

Terminating an apprenticeship contract is not only difficult, it can also cost businesses a large amount of money. This is due to the fact that the main purpose of this type of employment is to provide training. In addition, most methods of ending the employment before the end of contract is considered unlawful. The only way that the employment should end is if the employee’s behaviour is so bad that it’s making it impossible for the employer to provide them the required training. However, the employer must have sufficient evidence for this to be considered lawful.

It’s important when faced with a scenario like this, you explore all other avenues before terminating a contract. A good place to start is by organising regular 1-1 meetings. This will allow you to discuss concerns you have with their performance and set goals to overcome these concerns. You must also make sure that your managers and trainers are teaching apprentices correctly.

An apprenticeship contract can be terminated for gross misconduct. Gross misconduct involves serious violations of workplace rules or ethical standards that are so severe that they can justify the immediate termination of the apprenticeship contract. Examples of gross misconduct may include theft, violence, harassment, fraud, or actions that pose a significant risk to health and safety. However, it is essential for employers to follow proper procedures and provide the apprentice with a fair and documented process before terminating their contract for gross misconduct, as outlined in the apprenticeship agreement and relevant employment laws.

Early Termination

Terminating an apprenticeship contract early can have various consequences, depending on the circumstances and the terms outlined in the apprenticeship agreement. Here are some potential outcomes:

  1. Financial Implications: The apprentice may be entitled to certain financial benefits or compensation if the contract is terminated early, based on the terms of the agreement and applicable laws. This could include any agreed-upon wages, training costs, or other financial considerations.
  2. Loss of Skills and Opportunities: Terminating an apprenticeship prematurely means that the apprentice may not complete their training and gain the intended skills and qualifications. This can be a setback for the apprentice’s career development.
  3. Legal Considerations: Employers should be aware of their legal obligations and responsibilities when terminating an apprenticeship contract. They must adhere to employment laws, contractual agreements, and any relevant regulations to avoid potential legal disputes or claims.
  4. Impact on Reputation: Early termination of an apprenticeship contract may affect the reputation of both the employer and the apprentice. Future employers and training providers may consider the circumstances surrounding the early termination when making decisions related to employment or further education.

It’s crucial for both employers and apprentices to communicate openly, address any concerns or issues promptly, and seek legal or professional advice if needed when considering or undergoing an early termination of an apprenticeship contract. This helps ensure that the process is handled fairly and in compliance with applicable laws and regulations.

Redundancy for apprentices

You can’t just make an apprentice redundant due to loss of customer base or reduction of work available. Again, this is due to an apprenticeship being mainly training based. As an employer, you must have sufficient evidence that either your business is closing or continuing training is an impossibility. If you have terminated an apprentice contract without having this evidence, the apprentice can claim breach of contract and may even present a case for damages due to loss of future earnings.

Even if you have terminated the apprenticeship contract legally, the employee can still claim for unfair dismissal if they have worked with you for 2 years or more.

Furthermore, making an apprentice redundant can potentially lead to an unfair dismissal claim if the redundancy process is not carried out fairly and in accordance with the law. This might occur if the employer fails to demonstrate that the redundancy was genuine and necessary, or if they do not properly consult with the apprentice regarding alternative employment or available support. Additionally, if the selection criteria for redundancy unfairly target the apprentice without reasonable justification, it can raise concerns of unfair dismissal and may lead to a legal claim.

Apprenticeship Funding

Apprenticeship funding is available to support both employers and apprentices in their pursuit of skills development and training. The main source of apprenticeship funding is the apprenticeship levy, which is paid by large employers with an annual payroll exceeding £3 million. These employers contribute a percentage of their payroll costs to a dedicated apprenticeship fund, which can then be used to cover the cost of apprenticeship training and assessment.

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) also benefit from government funding, with the government covering 95% of the apprenticeship training costs for SMEs who do not pay the levy. You can find out more about funding available and what you need to do to qualify on the Government website.

 Get Advice From Our HR Experts

Our HR team can provide valuable guidance and advice on apprenticeships by helping employers understand their rights and responsibilities within the apprenticeship programme. They can offer insights on contract terms, wage requirements, training expectations, and dispute resolution mechanisms, ensuring that apprenticeships are conducted in compliance with relevant laws and regulations while fostering a positive learning environment.

If you would like to find out more about Apprenticeship employment protection, contact us now. You can find out more about Apprenticeship rights in England and Wales here:

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