2 weeks ago
Apprentices: Misuse and the minimum wage
A very important decision on Appeal has been published concerning apprentices, and when they are not actually apprentices at all. The implication of course is that an employer may fail to pay the National Minimum Wage and have to pay back pay, perhaps for years, if their apprentices turn out not to be apprentices.
The case in question concerns trainees in livery stables. They claimed the minimum wage and the original tribunal refused their claim as they were apprentices. Specifically, they were there to be trained.
On appeal this decision was overturned. The reason was that the contracts of apprenticeship contained no fixed end date, contained notice provisions and contained a power to dismiss on notice. The Appeal Tribunal ruled that these factors were not consistent with an apprenticeship contract. The ruling also underlined the idea that an apprentice cannot be sacked for poor performance.
If you use apprentices, it is worth perhaps rechecking your agreements in light of this decision. Legitimate Apprentice Agreements must state what skill, trade or occupation the apprentice is being trained for.
The case can be read at the following link: