GE Caledonian Ltd v McCandliss UKEATS/0069/10

Mr McCandliss, an apprentice with GE, was sponsored to take a university engineering degree by GE.  He worked during his holidays for GE but before starting his final year he informed GE that he intended to withdraw from his degree course for personal reasons and asked if he could return to his full-time position.  There was no full-time position for him as he had only worked for GE during his summer holidays.  GE gave him the option to resume his course or accept an internship contract, both of which he refused. 

As a result GE treated the sponsorship contract as having been terminated.  Mr McCandliss successfully complained to an employment tribunal that he had been unfairly dismissed.  GE appealed to the EAT which by majority upheld the appeal.  The sponsorship contract was to advance Mr McCandliss’ training and education.  Although there was an expectation he would take up training during the summer holidays there was no obligation to do so nor was there any obligation for him to offer his services to GE or for GE to offer him employment at the end of his course.  There was no evidence that he was employed under short fixed term employment contracts during his summer holiday placements but even if he had been these taken together did not give him the necessary continuity of employment to claim unfair dismissal.   

Key point: Where employers sponsor students to advance their training as the main objective and are paid to work during their studies, this arrangement is unlikely to amount to an employment contract.