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Introduction to this document

Apprenticeship agreement

Employers are allowed to employ apprentices on contracts of employment, rather than on contracts of apprenticeship, subject to complying with a number of specified conditions. Our apprenticeship agreement complies with those conditions. 

Benefit of contract of employment

A worker employed under a contract of apprenticeship is protected against unfair dismissal and enjoys the same employment protection as an employee employed under a contract of employment. However, contracts of apprenticeship have traditionally involved much heavier burdens for employers than ordinary contracts of employment as the whole purpose of the arrangement is to provide training to the apprentice. Usually, contracts of apprenticeship are for a fixed term and they cannot be terminated early, other than in exceptional circumstances. Therefore, if you were to terminate the contract early, any damages payable for breach of contract are potentially much greater than damages for breach of an ordinary contract of employment. In addition, the apprentice may be entitled to compensation not just for loss of wages to the end of the fixed term, but also damages for future loss of earnings and prospects as a qualified person.

Legislative provisions

The Apprenticeship, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009 (ASCLA) provides that an agreement will be an “apprenticeship agreement” if:

  • the apprentice undertakes to work for the employer under the agreement
  • it is in the “prescribed form”
  • it states that it is governed by the law of England and Wales; and
  • it states that it is entered into in connection with a qualifying apprenticeship framework.

Section 35 of ASCLA then provides that an apprenticeship agreement which satisfies these conditions will be regarded as a contract of service (i.e. a contract of employment), and not as a contract of apprenticeship, for common law or statutory purposes. Regulations then set out the “prescribed form” of the apprenticeship agreement. The Regulations simply say that the prescribed form for these purposes is either a written statement of particulars of employment given to an employee under Section 1 of the Employment Rights Act 1996, or a document in writing in the form of a contract of employment or letter of engagement which complies with Section 1. In addition, the apprenticeship agreement must contain a statement of the skill, trade or occupation for which the apprentice is being trained under the apprenticeship framework.

Apprenticeship agreement

Our Apprenticeship Agreement is in the prescribed form and therefore it means that, if you use it, your apprentice will be deemed to be working under a contract of employment, which can be terminated early more easily - and at less cost - than a contract of apprenticeship (although notice must still be given and a fair procedure must still always be followed). It essentially comprises our basic Written Statement of Employment Particulars, together with the information that has to be included to make it in the prescribed form and a number of further apprentice-specific provisions related to learning and training.

Development of approved English apprenticeships

 

The government started to roll out approved English apprenticeships” from May 2015. Whilst the law on apprenticeships in Wales hasn’t changed, in England apprenticeships are undergoing a transformation. ASCLA has been amended so that “approved English apprenticeships”, under “approved English apprenticeship agreements”, now apply in England where the apprentice is in a sector of work for which an approved apprenticeship standard has been published. Although the statutory conditions for such an apprenticeship are similar in substance to the provisions governing apprenticeship agreements, some of the complexity of the conditions has been removed. For example, the requirement for an apprenticeship to comply with a qualifying apprenticeship framework no longer applies. Instead, it must meet one of the apprenticeship standards approved by the Secretary of State, which have been designed and developed by employers in the relevant industries. Our Apprenticeship Agreement therefore now applies only in Wales and also in England where an approved apprenticeship standard has not yet been published for the particular work sector. Transitional provisions mean that where an apprentice has entered into an apprenticeship agreement in connection with a recognised English apprenticeship framework (either before May 2015, or after May 2015 where an approved apprenticeship standard has not yet been published), this will continue to be valid and covered by the regime for apprenticeship agreements.

 

You don’t need to put existing apprentices on to any form of new agreement, and with new apprentices you just need to check whether there’s an approved apprenticeship standard available yet for the particular work sector. If there is, you need to enter into our Approved English Apprenticeship Agreement with them. Whilst a large number of approved apprenticeship standards are now available covering a range of occupations, many are still in development - the aim is that all new English apprenticeships will be based on the standards from the start of the 2017/18 academic year (replacing the apprenticeship frameworks, which will be withdrawn on a phased basis).