Workers were ‘employees’ not apprentices and deserved more pay
The Employment Appeal Tribunal has provided a ruling which offers some valuable guidance for employers taking on apprentices.
Unless certain conditions are met, apprentices should be treated as fully fledged employees and paid accordingly.
The case involved a riding school and livery business which took on a number of apprentices.
They carried out tasks such as maintaining stables and looking after horses. The company paid the apprentices £100 per week and provided them with training. It also paid for the apprentices’ exams, but only when the company decided they were ready.
Revenue and Customs claimed that the apprentices were actually employees who were subject to employment contracts and should be paid at least the minimum wage. It said they were working for the employer’s benefit, with aspects such as training being secondary.
They worked 39 hours per week and there was no fixed period of apprenticeship or formal records of teaching or training.
The Tribunal ruled that the apprentices worked under contracts of apprenticeship and so were not covered by the National Minimum Wage Regulations 1999.
However, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) reversed the decision. It held that an apprenticeship contract was distinct from an employment contract due to the emphasis on work being secondary to training.
An apprenticeship contract had to be for a fixed term. The workers in this case didn’t have a fixed term. The company decided when they would be ready to take their exams.
The Tribunal had been wrong to conclude that the terms were consistent with an apprenticeship contract. The contracts had been for the company’s benefit and the emphasis on training was secondary to work.
The EAT ruled that the workers were employed under contracts of employment, not apprenticeships and so should be paid accordingly.
Please contact Jackie Cuneen for more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of employment law.