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HMRC internal manual

Employment Status Manual

Common Law

There is no statutory definition of what is meant by a contract of apprenticeship. An apprentice is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as being:

“one who is bound by legal agreement to serve an employer for a period of years, with a view to learn some handicraft, trade etc., in which the employer is reciprocally bound to instruct him.”Further guidance on what is meant by a contract of apprenticeship can be found in several cases on the subject.

In Wiltshire Police Authority v. Wynn [1981] QB95, Lord Denning M.R. stated

“If the primary purpose was work for the master – and teaching a trade was only a secondary purpose – it was a contract of service. But if teaching a trade was the primary purpose – and work for the master was only secondary – then it was a contract of apprenticeship.”In the more recent case of Edmunds v. Lawson and Others [2000] ICR567 concerning a pupil barrister, the Court of Appeal judgment contains more commentary on contracts of apprenticeship. The Lord Chief Justice stated:

“A contract of apprenticeship or any equivalent contract is in our judgment a synallagmatic contract in which the master undertakes to educate and train the apprentice (or pupil) in the practical and other skills needed to practise a skilled (or learned) profession and the apprentice (or pupil) binds himself to serve and work for the master and comply with all reasonable directions. These mutual covenants are in our judgment cardinal features of such a relationship.”(synallagmatic – reciprocally binding)

The judgment contains quotes from earlier cases concerning the meaning of “apprentice” and the common thread is that an apprentice is one who is bound to serve a master who is bound to teach him.