The apprenticeship contract and its special characteristics

The term apprenticeship contract means the contract, according to which the one of the contracting parties undertakes the responsibility to transfer to the other party the empirical knowledge necessary, for the practice by the latter party of a certain profession or a certain vocation.

 

It is not seldom, that the borders between the apprenticeship contract and the dependent employment relationship become “particularly blurred”, especially in cases where the element of the work delivered starts acquiring, during the apprenticeship, bigger weight and importance, so that the role of the education recedes respectively. For this reason, it is worth it to proceed to a strict definition and clarification of the boundaries between the two terms, so that there arise no doubts.

In particular, forms of an apprenticeship contract are the original apprenticeship contract and the dependent employment contract of an apprentice. The provisions of labour law and the collective employment contracts apply on the dependent employment contract of an apprentice. They do not apply on the original apprenticeship contract, which constitutes a relationship of education and not of employment, since the apprentice is not employed for the production targets of the business, but for their own technical and professional education and training.

Within this frame, any kind of work delivered by the apprentice is done with the goal of them understanding better the object of their vocation or profession (Court of Cassation Decision Nr. 2052/1990). As a result, on the original apprenticeship contract there apply only mutatis mutandis the labour provisions of the Greek Civil Code, when those respond to the nature and purpose of this contract, while the provisions of the labour legislation do not apply (for example with regard to the time limits related to work, the minimum legal payment, Christmas and Easter bonus, holiday payment and bonus, termination of the labour contract, etc.).

On the contrary, on the dependent employment contract of an apprentice, which exists when the apprentice employee offers their work within an undertaking or establishment, aiming, at the same time, at acquiring knowledge or competence in a particular specialization or profession, the education on a vocation or profession comes as an automatic consequence of the application of the contract and within the frame of the normal function of this and does not constitute an object of particular responsibility of the employer and, subsequently, on this contract (of the dependent employment of an apprentice) there apply the general as well as the specific provisions of labour law, since its primary goal is the delivery of work from the side of the apprentice against payment and only the ancillary goal is the education on a vocation or profession by the apprentice, according to the guidelines and instructions of the employer.

Combining the learning process with work, apprenticeship positions allow young people to acquire professional experience as well as, at the same time, practical competences which respond to the requirements of employers. This inherent pertinence to the labour market makes the apprenticeship positions beneficial for young people as well as for businesses: the apprentices often stay in the business where they complete their training or improve their probabilities of landing a job position that will correspond to their qualifications in comparison to their colleagues in general education or in the VET offered by the educational system. In addition, small or medium-sized employers can secure specialized workers. The training of apprentices allows a business to form their work habits and to occupy, in the long term, employers with qualifications and professional fervour.

At this point, it is worth mentioning the “special apprenticeship contract”, with a duration of up to one year, which is concluded with persons aged 15-18, who receive 70% of the minimum daily wage or salary set by the National General Collective Labour Agreement (article 74 par. 9 Law 3863/2010, as applies). The above-mentioned apprentices, as is explicitly ruled, are not subject to the provisions of labour legislation, with the exception of the health and safety provisions for employees. Moreover, particular legal provisions and ministerial decrees arrange issues of remuneration, occupational conditions and in general handling of specific categories of “apprentices/trainees”, like, for example, of practically trained students of Technological Education Institutes (TEI), Schools for Schoolteachers of Professional and Technological Education (SELETE), Higher Education Institutes (AEI), or students of Professional Schools (EPS.S.), apprentices of the Manpower Employment Organisation (OAED), trainees of the Institutes of Professional Training (IEK), etc. Finally, it has to be noted that, depending on the category under which the “apprentice” falls and, subsequently, the provisions/ministerial decisions etc. that apply every time, there are also determined differently in each case the employer’s responsibilities regarding the occupation of apprentices, practically trained university students, vocational students, school students, etc.

However, it is a fact that the education of apprentices demands from the businesses that they realise investments (financial, organisatory or relevant to the human resources), which do not always lead to the expected benefits. The insecurity that surrounds the yield of those investments might limit the business’s willingness, especially that of the smaller ones, to occupy apprentices, much more when that takes place during financially difficult periods.

It is characteristic that the expenses for the realization of apprenticeship programmes are normally shared between businesses, apprentices, state (national or peripheral public authorities) and social partners. They decide what percentage of the programme is constituted of learning in the working place, they collect the financial resources through general taxation (state) and contributions (state and social partners) and they distribute them to the apprenticeship programmes, so that the expenses by the businesses themselves be limited. The businesses normally pay the remuneration to the apprentices and cover the training expenses in the workplace, while the state covers the cost of education in educational institutes. The apprentices undertake part of the costs, accepting payment or other remuneration smaller than the salary that they would receive as employees.

All of the businesses, independent of their size, are offered tax incentives, either in the form of tax deductions for each person occupied with an apprenticeship contract, or as a reduction of the employer’s social security contributions. To the smaller enterprises there are special incentives offered, which contribute significantly to the increase of their investment in training.

Recapitulating, the conditions that have to govern the work and learning by apprentices are the following:

  • The legislation must secure the rights and obligations of apprentices, both in the frame of their work as well as in the frame of their education.
  • There must exist a reference point (competent institution), which will inform the apprentices about the rights and obligations of all parties and provide them with support.
  • The apprentices that are connected to the business with an employment contract must enjoy all the rights and benefits of the employers and to be subject to all the relevant obligations.
  • The apprentices must be protected in case of an inability of the company (e.g. due to insolvency) to provide education.
  • The apprentices must have access to guidance and counselling services.

In every case, it must be noted that the legal adviser can have a proven decisive counselling role towards businesses as far as the development/shaping of a relationship (as a works, apprenticeship or dependent or independent employment contract for a fixed or indefinite period) is concerned, since they have the necessary legal tool at their disposal, in order to proceed to the relevant evaluations and place the real situations under the sphere of the right provisions, according to the specific features of each business.

 

Editors:

George Koutsoukos - Partner, Lawyer –Dr.

Maria Kloni - Lawyer-MSc HRM                                                                                                     

 

KREMALIS  |  Ius Laboris Greece  |  Global HR Lawyers                       

Kyrillou Loukareos 35 - 114 75 Athens - Greece                      

T +30 210 6431387 | F +30 210 6460313 |  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.               

www.kremalis.gr  |  www.iuslaboris.com