• By Sam Cook
  • In
  • Posted Tuesday October 20, 2015

Why you shouldn’t dismiss an apprentice during their probationary period...

The following is one of the many common themes that come out of the HR Advice Line at First Practice Management:

Q: We have an apprentice who we hired three months ago. They have been repeatedly rude to patients, what should we do? Can we dismiss them in their probationary period?

A: Apprentices have additional protection under employment law and it is only possible to end an apprenticeship contract under extreme circumstances.

If an apprentice is guilty of misconduct (such as rudeness) this does not always justify ending the contract. Misconduct has to be so extreme that it means an apprentice could no longer be taught. Therefore if an employee does something that makes them “unteachable”, a dismissal would be fair (if following the correct procedures).

Rudeness is unlikely to come under this category and therefore should be addressed in a more developmental manner. The severity of misconduct would need to be much more severe than any other employee or include repeated acts where training has not prevented. The grounds are even narrower than those of gross misconduct.

Disciplinary procedures can be considered where comprehensive attempts to train, support or coach the employee have been made.

Some actions to consider:

  • Creating a development plan
  • Customer service training
  • Assigning a mentor

Other points to be aware of include:

  • Apprentices cannot be made redundant unless the organisation is closing all together
  • Apprentices can be dismissed on incapacity grounds but the bar for incapacity would need to be very high and the apprenticeship should be paused rather than terminated where possible

Legal consequences

Apprentices not only have a stricter criteria to be fairly dismissed, but are also likely to be awarded more in compensation. This may be to reflect loss of earnings during the contract and loss of future earnings.

If the apprentice commits misconduct or breaches the apprenticeship contract, this does not necessarily mean the employer can stop the training. The misconduct has to be so extreme that it means the apprentice can no longer be taught the trade. They can only be dismissed fairly for misconduct if they are effectively unteachable.

There is also an increased risk of age discrimination and it is worth noting there is no maximum age on apprentices, therefore you could have an apprentice of any age.

FPM Members can seek more advice surrounding the dismissal of apprentices be emailing advice@firstpracticemanagement.co.uk.

© First Practice Management, 2015. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.


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