Apprenticeships – the legal position

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An apprentice is classed as an employee and gains all the main legal rights including unfair dismissal claims, paternity/maternity rights and redundancy rights.

Author: Dennis Chapman
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This article is 12 years old.

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It is likely that current Government thinking will see a rise in the number of apprenticeships on offer for suitably qualified young people.

Apprenticeships are normally for a set number of years or until a particular qualification is gained.  They are a popular route to becoming a skilled motor technician/engineer.  An apprentice is classed as an employee and gains all the main legal rights including unfair dismissal claims, paternity/maternity rights and redundancy rights.

The repercussions of dismissing an apprentice unfairly are extremely high and indeed higher in some cases than a traditional employee.  In a particular case (Lloyd v Federal Mogul Sintered Products 2003) the apprentice received £20,000 when he was dismissed due to poor attendance.  The tribunal considered the absence policy was unfair and as a result of the dismissal the apprentice did not achieve his qualification and skills which would have given him a good career.

Taking on an apprentice must therefore be seen as a commitment to see it through to the end.

Apprentices are covered by the discrimination laws, but you are not obliged to employ an apprentice at the end of the apprenticeship period.

Under Health and Safety legislation, if you employ an apprentice under the age of 18 you must assess the risks for them before they start employment taking into account their inexperience, immaturity and lack of awareness of risks.

Such young people must not be allowed to do work which is 

  • exceeds the persons physical,/mental limitations
  • exposes them to toxic or cancerous substances
  • exposes them to radiation
  • involves a risk of accidents which they reasonable cannot recognise
  • involves extreme heat, cold, noise or vibration

There are working time limitations which we have covered before for categories of young people in general.

Finally, don’t forget that age discrimination works for young as well as old people. Hence advertisements favouring young people should be avoided.

Dennis Chapman

In remembrance of Dennis Chapman 1951 -2015

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