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It appears that she is the subject of bullying by the employer. The issue with bullying is that apart from an internal grievance it is not possible to make a claim or complaint directly about bullying to anyone else. If someone is the victim of bullying then the only official way to deal with it is to resign and make a claim for constructive dismissal (subject to having 2 years’ service) or if they are dismissed – make a claim for unfair dismissal. So whilst she is certainly able to make a formal grievance with the employer, if that does not resolve things she will only be able to challenge this formally if she is dismissed.
Apprentices are still legally treated as employees so their employment can be terminated if necessary. The apprentice’s rights in this respect will depend on whether they are employed under an apprenticeship agreement or an apprenticeship contract.
An apprenticeship contract automatically exists if an employer has an agreement with an individual the main purpose of which is for that individual to be trained by the employer. However, the apprentice could be employed under an apprenticeship agreement instead and this will give them different rights. For such an agreement to be valid it must be issued in accordance with the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009. So if there was an agreement in place which was issued under this Act, it is likely an apprenticeship agreement would have been created.
If the apprentice as not employed under an agreement, they will get better rights. That is because in addition to a contract of employment, there would be a contract for training for the duration of the apprenticeship. In these circumstances an apprentice can only be dismissed if they were found guilty of serious misconduct or extremely poor performance. They cannot be made redundant. If the apprenticeship is not terminated for these reasons, the apprentice could potentially seek compensation for the loss of earnings under the apprenticeship contract plus the loss of potential future earnings.
However, if they were employed under an apprenticeship agreement, they would be treated in the same manner as employees and will not get the additional protection they would have received had they been employed under an apprenticeship contract. They can be dismissed subject to the usual fair dismissal rules, and will not have protection against unfair dismissal unless they have 2 years service. They would be entitled to their contractual notice period and any accrued holidays but not to any further damages for the loss of opportunities or loss of training.
So in summary, the only protection she will get is if she is employer under an apprenticeship contract, not an apprenticeship agreement, and she is unfairly dismissed.
This is your basic legal position. I have more detailed advice for you in terms of the steps she can follow in the event she has to take this further formally, which I wish to discuss so please take a second to leave a positive rating for the service so far (by selecting 3, 4 or 5 stars) and I can continue with that and answer any further questions you may have. Don’t worry, there is no extra cost and leaving a rating will not close the question and we can continue this discussion. Thank you