I have been working as an apprentice in a workplace for 1.5 years now in the UK. I was told verbally that I'd be kept on for the next level alongside another apprentice.

Shortly after this a message on teams and an email went around the department stating

"I'm delighted to say I have confirmed with the apprentices that subject to successful completion of their Level 3 qualification, they will be continuing with us and we will be supporting them through the Level 4 apprenticeship programme from 1st February 2019."

Now 3 months down the line - 1 month before my original contract ends we have been told that we will not be being kept on even though we were told otherwise previously

Legally can my company do this in the UK?

  • What is your question?
    – A. K.
    Feb 11 '19 at 3:58
  • @TTE I've made an edit
    – Twyxz
    Feb 11 '19 at 7:23

Unless you can make a case for being dismissed under any of the "automatically unfair" reasons laid out in employment law, then as you were employed after April 6th 2012 and have been employed for less than 2 years, you have no right in law to claim unfair dismissal.

So yes, what the company did is entirely legal, unless you can establish your dismissal occurred under the aforementioned automatically unfair reasons.


You are either a worker or an employee under UK employment law and are protected from unfair dismissal. This means your employer must follow the procedures for dismissing you contained in your contract and must have a valid reason.

The fact that you were earlier promised ongoing employment is only relevant if it was not genuine at the time. Unfortunately circumstances change in business and what was true then may not be true now. Notwithstanding, they still need a reason.

  • So does this mean they cannot let me go without a reason?
    – Twyxz
    Jan 29 '19 at 7:15
  • @Twyxz that’s what I said
    – Dale M
    Jan 29 '19 at 8:33
  • Does this include "We can't find a training provider and cannot afford to just let you stay till we find one"? Or does this not class as a reason
    – Twyxz
    Jan 29 '19 at 9:03
  • It's worth noting that the op has been in their position for less than two years, and therefore is very easy for the employer to let go essentially without recourse - basically whatever notice is in the contract and that's it.
    – user4210
    Feb 11 '19 at 7:32

I am not knowledgeable of employment laws in the UK, but the employer's change of mind is legitimate from the standpoint of contract law.

Even if you and your employer had a binding contract that establishes your prospective employment, the doctrine of contract law contemplates the notion of frustration of purpose of a contract. See chapter 11 of the Restatement (Second) of Contracts (for which there might be an equivalent in UK law).

The closest you could get in terms of "remedies" (if at all) is by a theory of promissory estoppel, but you would have to prove circumstances which are not palpable in your inquiry.

For instance, it would be necessary --and likely insufficient-- for you to prove that (1) the employer was aware that you declined a comparable opportunity elsewhere in order to remain with him, (2) the employer's change of mind was not really devised as a way to avoid a scenario which your continued employment would render impracticable, and (3) that your reliance on him caused you to lose that other opportunity.

The reason why I have my doubts as to sufficiency in the preceding paragraph is the clear infringement of the freedom of contract at stake, as reflected in the UK equivalent (if any) of the at-will employment doctrine.

  • The Restatement (Second) of Contracts is available here, now that the law firm of the link in this answer removed that resource and posted some useless "overview of contract law" instead. Jan 3 '20 at 15:44

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