Yes you can sack an Apprentice, but this blog is about ending apprentice employment for other reasons. If you have concerns about the performance or behaviour of an apprentice and you are thinking of ending apprentice employment, you must do it fairly and reasonably . Otherwise, you may find yourself being challenged by the Apprentice.
This blog is more about what you tell an Apprentice up front about their apprenticeship. So that when it comes to ending apprentice employment, there are no surprises. We’ve put together some tips for you. These are based on recent enquiries that we’ve received from employers experiencing difficulties with an apprentice.
We are often surprised at the minimal contracts that employers give to Apprentices. Often they seem to have been simply drafted by the Apprentice’s training provider. The Apprentice is your employee. You need to clarify the terms on which you engage them, not the Training Provider. Metis HR offer clients an Approved English Apprenticeship Agreement. This has been drafted to take account of legislation which came into force in May 2015. It introduced an ‘approved English apprenticeship’, which replaced apprenticeships under the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009 in England. However, does not include Wales). This document clarifies responsibilities and expectations.
In your initial contact with any prospective Apprentice, be realistic about what the outcome of the apprenticeship will be. If you can’t guarantee there will be a permanent position once the Apprentice has completed their training, you need to tell them. Be up front. The Apprentice has a right to make an informed choice about where they go to undertake their apprenticeship. And this is information that they need. Equally, telling an Apprentice before you offer them the position that there is no guarantee of a permanent position when they have completed their training. This reinforces the message in the offer letter you send them and in the Apprenticeship Agreement. We have a client who routinely takes on 4 Apprentices per year.
They enjoy the training which is of a good standard. But the business growth is not there to sustain recruiting 4 new permanent staff every year. Inevitably, a number of Apprentices are unable to be kept on. But it should not come as a shock to them. As they know their apprenticeship isn’t an automatic entry to a permanent position.
Think about your organisational structure and what it can sustain. You’ve invested a lot in training apprentices. Before ending Apprentice employment, consider whether you can create some kind of continuing traineeship. Define what that may look like. Many employers have the opinion that just completing an Apprenticeship does not make them someone with the same experience and skills as longer serving employees. Therefore, they are not immediately given the same responsilities and pay once the Apprenticeship ends. Consider creating a Trainee role, or an Improver role. You would need to pay minimum wage at least for this role. This approach gives an Apprentice the possibility of career progression with your organisation. And it allows them to see the future financial picture.
On Apprentice pay, this is one of our most common areas of query. There are not many people that think Apprentices are well paid. Many Apprentices accept the Apprentice rate without question as they leave school. But one year in, some Apprentices seem to develop an attitude to the pay they are receiving. They seem to forget that they are learning and there is an approved rate for the job that the employer must pay. It is, sadly, a common occurrence where Apprentices try to renegotiate their pay in the second year. We see all too often an apprentice saying, “I’ll only stay if you pay me more”.
However, ending apprentice employment in these circumstances after a conversation with the employee often amounts to accepting their resignation. This is because the organisation cannot afford to raise not just this Apprentices pay, but also the other Apprentices. As they would be entitled to similar fair treatment. Therefore, spelling out the organisation’s approach to Apprentice pay in the interview can help manage expectations. As well as the offer letter and the Apprentice Agreement that gives transparency to the process.
What to do Next
At Metis HR we really value the contribution that Apprentices can make to organisations. They can be a real injection of enthusiasm and new ideas that add value to your culture and your organisational performance. We hope that setting out arrangements for employing Apprentices will reduce the occasions on which you consider ending Apprentice employment.
So, if you have an Apprentice related problem that you’d like to talk through with us, please call us on 01706 565332. We’d be happy to chat through your options with you.
Metis HR is a professional HR Consultancy based in the North West of England supporting clients across the country. We specialise in providing outsourced HR services to small and medium-sized businesses. Call us now on 01706 565332 to discuss how we may help you.