Updated for July 2020
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 skillsets. However, not all things work out as planned. COVID-19 has had a consequential impact on many businesses.
Can I Make an Apprentice Redundant?
Apprentices have the same employment rights as all other employees, but an apprenticeship contract cannot be terminated due to redundancy unless the employer’s business closes or undergoes significant changes meaning it’s no longer feasible to provide the required training. It is not sufficient that the need for apprentices in the business has reduced, as is the case with other employees.
Legislation regarding apprenticeships can be unclear, yet there is a significant body of legal opinion that suggests that apprentices are explicitly protected from redundancy – and that making an apprentice redundant would put the employer in breach of contract with damages to be expected, the level dependent on the remaining term of the apprenticeship and the loss of qualification prospects.
This does not mean, however, that there are no grounds under which you can dismiss an apprentice for redundancy. It does mean that there are still several obligations you would need to undertake.
What are My Obligations as an Employer?
You would be expected to find the apprentice an alternative employer to take on the remainder of their apprenticeship training period. Approach your training provider or the National Apprenticeship Service who might be able to help with this.
The apprentice could also seek another employment opportunity with your support through written references; as well as the employer acting proactively with their own contacts in their industry.
Under the 2009 Apprenticeship, Skills, Children and Learning Act, an apprentice who is made redundant can complete their apprenticeship without being employed under an Apprenticeship Agreement if the remaining time on the apprenticeship is less than six months.
For the alternative completion conditions to apply:
- The apprentice must have been employed under an Apprenticeship Agreement and be on a recognised Apprenticeship framework prior to being made redundant.
- The Apprenticeship must be completed with 6 months of the date of dismissal and meet the requirements in the framework.
- The apprentice must be working, but not in paid employment, in connection with the framework for the second phase of the Apprenticeship
- The total time spent on the Apprenticeship in the pre and post redundancy period must meet the requirements for the minimum duration for Apprenticeship set out in the Funding Rules.
Where it is known that the apprentice will not be able to complete the Apprenticeship within the six month period (including meeting the minimum duration rules) or where the requirements in the framework cannot be met then the provider will need to make a judgement about whether to:
- Make efforts to secure an alternative employer willing to continue the Apprenticeship
- Agree a formal break in learning (and to be re-engaged by the same employer to finish the apprenticeship at a reasonable later date)
- Transfer the learner to an alternative non-Apprenticeship programme
- Terminate the Apprenticeship.
Even under the conditions of a Modern Apprenticeship, when it comes to redundancy it is best not to think of apprentices as just other employees, but an individual who has a contract with you to provide training to the point where they are a qualified worker as set out in the framework.
If your business is in a situation that means you cannot retain the apprentice to allow training to come to completion (as per the Apprenticeship Agreement), then there is an onus of finding an alternative employer or arrangement to allow the apprentice to complete their qualifications. Failure to do so is likely to constitute a fundamental breach of contract.