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Case Study: The Outsourcer’s Apprentice

The Client
A local IT support company providing outsourced technology services, both software and hardware to regional businesses who had problems with a new apprentice.

The Challenge
The company had taken on an IT apprentice who was being trained at a local college. The apprentice had been given strict instructions about what he could and could not do with the company’s IT equipment and that of its clients. However, it was discovered that he had explicitly broken the rules on accessing information on clients’ IT equipment without permission. Furthermore, the company had extensive records of him playing computer games on their equipment when he should have been working. Before they were able to deal with the situation, which would have amounted to gross misconduct, he took several extended periods of sickness absence – but lied about the reasons for his time off. Being aware that apprentices have additional employment protection because of their special status, the employer looked for help from the apprenticeship company and from Cherington HR.

The Solution
The apprenticeship company through whom the apprentice was placed initially, did not want to get involved or to help (it transpired later that this was because they had not wanted to lose the funding for the apprentice and so they had a conflict of interest in resolving the matter.) So, Helen Astill of Cherington HR helped the business owner get permission from the apprentice to talk to his parents to help them understand the situation (although it transpired that pressure from the apprentice’s parents had exacerbated his illness). Cherington HR also helped get input from the apprentice’s GP and the college. Eventually it was agreed that because the apprentice would not be able to put in the required number of hours to complete the apprenticeship due to his extended absence, he would defer to the following year for his studies and the apprenticeship company would find another placement for him if he still wanted to continue. He was dismissed for “Some Other Substantial Reason” namely that he didn’t have sufficient time left to complete his qualification.

The Results
The situation was very unfortunate – a young apprentice with mental health issues made worse to some extent by undue pressure from his parents. The owner of the IT company did not want to add to his worries by dismissing the young man for gross misconduct, but clearly he had lied and deliberately disobeyed important instructions. It was not possible for the apprentice to continue in employment with this company as there had been a fundamental breach of trust and confidence. So, a solution was found that allowed the apprentice to leave and get medical treatment and get a second chance, and allowed the employer to look for a replacement apprentice whom he could train with more confidence.

Key words: Apprentice; Mental Health; Sickness Absence, Dismissal, Gross Misconduct, Some Other Substantial Reason

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