Qantas apprenticeship case -  appeal continuing

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Qantas apprenticeship case -  appeal continuing

Is a contract of apprenticeship a legally distinct form of employment relationship which concludes ‘by operation of law’ with the successful completion of the apprenticeship?

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Is a contract of apprenticeship a legally distinct form of employment relationship which concludes ‘by operation of law’ with the successful completion of the apprenticeship?

On appeal before a Full Bench of the Federal Commission, Qantas with ACCI intervening, submitted last week that the above question can only be answered in the affirmative.

For that reason, when the apprentices in this case (see further HR Link 27 November 1997; Issue 180/97) were informed that they would not be ‘taken up’ as tradesmen, then the employment ended without any ‘termination at the initiative of the employer’.

In submissions, which will continue on Tuesday 7 April, the AMWU representing the apprentices argued that Qantas’ behaviour in encouraging a belief amongst the apprentices that they will continue in employment beyond their apprenticeships, estopped Qantas from not employing the apprentices as tradesmen.

Alternatively, the AMWU is arguing that the distinction between contracts of apprenticeships and other forms of contracts of employment is not applicable in this case because Qantas engaged the apprentices not only as apprentices but (subject to successful completion of their apprenticeship) as tradesmen.

The Full Bench’s determination is important to employers considering providing apprenticeships. As submitted by ACCI at the hearing:

"ACCI however is concerned that the decision of Vice President Ross may have the effect of acting as a disincentive against employers taking on apprentices.

"This may occur because if the Vice President’s decision is left to stand, it will force employers, when contemplating whether to offer apprenticeships, to consider whether the employer will be able to employ the apprentice after the completion of his or her apprenticeship. Very few employers, if any, operate in markets which are so stable that the employer can make valid employment decisions four years in advance."

 
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