Early Termination Was Breach of Apprenticeship Contract

The introduction of the apprenticeship levy and changes to the way in which funding for apprenticeships operates do not affect the way in which training for apprentices who started an apprenticeship programme before 1 May 2017 is funded.

Employers need to carry on funding training for these apprentices under the terms and conditions that were in place at the time the apprenticeship commenced.

A recent case (Kinnear v Marley Eternit Limited t/a Marley Contract Services) is a reminder that a failure to comply with the terms of a fixed-term apprenticeship contract is punishable by damages of up to £25,000 for breach of contract at the Employment Tribunal (ET).

Daniel Kinnear was employed by Marley Contract Services as an apprentice roof tiler in October 2014. The apprenticeship contract was for a fixed period of four years and, on its completion, Mr Kinnear would obtain a certificate confirming his completion of a Modern Apprenticeship in Construction Roofing Occupations.  He was trained in roofing using mainly concrete roof tiles or 'Marley' products.

In July 2016, however, Mr Kinnear was told that he was being made redundant owing to a downturn in the company's workload on account of a slump in the construction industry.

His appeal against that decision was rejected by the company.

Although Mr Kinnear did his best to find alternative work, signing on at various agencies, work was in short supply and his attempts to find an employer with whom he could complete his apprenticeship were unsuccessful as he was by that time over the age of 21 and entitled to a higher rate of pay than younger workers and those in the first year of their apprenticeship.

Mr Kinnear brought an ET claim for breach of contract seeking damages based on the payment of wages he would have received had he been allowed to complete his apprenticeship. No response to his claim was validly lodged by Marley Contract Services.

The ET found that Marley Contract Services had paid no attention to Mr Kinnear's employment status with the company and his contract entitled him to be trained and employed until his apprenticeship finished. It still had 122 weeks left to run, for which he would have been paid £24,217.

In addition, the skills he had acquired were based on using the company's own roofing products and he was disadvantaged with regard to his future level of earnings on account of not having his roofing qualification.

Mr Kinnear was awarded damages of £25,000, the maximum an ET can award in breach of contract cases, and Marley Contract Services was ordered to reimburse the £160 fee he had paid to lodge his claim.

Contact us if you would like advice on any of the issues raised in this bulletin or on any other employment law matter.

Posted by Peter Nicholas on Wednesday, August 16, 2017 at 11:50 AM