There are two types of apprenticeship, statutory and common law. The Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009 (ASCLA) governs statutory ones, however, apprenticeships date back hundreds of years and the common law concept, that has evolved over time, runs concurrently with the recent statute.

The main difference between the two is that statutory apprenticeships are employed under a contract similar to a normal employee and can be dismissed more easily. Meanwhile common law apprentices have greater protection and larger compensation available should they be unfairly dismissed.

In practice common law apprenticeships can be very informal and can be formed in an oral contract. They do not even require the term apprenticeship to be used so long as they are for a fixed term and training is the main focus of the agreement. These agreements cannot be terminated early unless the apprentice commits a serious gross misconduct offence.

a Statutory apprenticeship has to comply with the framework laid down by the government, this includes:

– a written agreement that is governed by the law of England and Wales

– an obligation on the part of  the apprentice to work for the employer

– the requisite information regarding the basic terms and conditions of employment required as per s.1 of the ERA 1996 (start date, hours of work, pay etc.)

– stating the skill or trade the apprentice is being trained in

To avoid doubt it would also be prudent to state that the agreement is governed by ASCLA and not common law. This could also mention a clause for the termination of the agreement, whether through misconduct or by giving notice.

Regardless of this employers should tread carefully when handling a potential termination of an apprentice and they are also at risk to age discrimination issues either directly (age limit on applications) or indirectly (different wage/treatment for normal employees).

For advice on apprenticeships please contact us.