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 employment particulars 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 must 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 2015. Whilst the law on apprenticeships in Wales hasn’t yet changed, in England apprenticeships have undergone a transformation. ASCLA has been amended so that “approved English apprenticeships”, under “approved English apprenticeship agreements”, now apply in England for all new apprenticeships from 1 August 2020 and for those which started before that date where there was an approved apprenticeship standard for the role. 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. Our Apprenticeship Agreement therefore now applies only to Welsh apprenticeship frameworks, and to apprenticeship frameworks which started on or before 31 July 2020 in England. Transitional provisions mean that where an apprentice has entered into an apprenticeship agreement on or before 31 July 2020 in connection with a recognised English apprenticeship framework, this will continue to be valid and covered by the regime for apprenticeship agreements. It is the government’s intention that these apprentices complete their English apprenticeship framework by no later than 31 July 2025. With new apprentices in England, you therefore need to enter into our Approved English Apprenticeship Agreement with them.