He has exactly the same rights as any of your other employees and potentially some additional rights by virtue of his apprenticeship agreement.
Any employee with one year or more service has the right to claim unfair dismissal and apprentices are no exception. While you may be able to defend your decision the fact that you have followed no procedures puts you in a much weaker position.
As with all unfair dismissal claims, you will need to show that you reached a reasonable decision following a reasonable investigation into the circumstances. By not following the correct procedures you have made it harder to demonstrate that you have acted reasonably.
The main question is going to be whether or not the dismissal would have occurred in any event had you followed the correct procedures. If this apprentice was on a final warning for performance and had failed to show improvement again, then while your actions may have been procedurally unfair the decision may be found to be fair overall. However, if there are no previously recorded issues then it will be difficult to justify dismissal without being given the chance to improve.
The risk the apprenticeship causes you relates to loss of earnings because he has an argument for loss of earnings for the full length of the apprenticeship contract. However, you should contact the apprenticeship scheme to see if they can place him elsewhere to mitigate any future losses and reduce the level of any awards.
Redundancy for staff
Question: I am self-employed and have employed a member of staff for about 18 months. I can no longer afford to do this, what can I do? Can I make him redundant?
Yes, it is reasonable for a business to resort to redundancy if a job will no longer exist due to lack of funds. However, you are advised to go through the redundancy consultation (which is a two way process) before you make the dismissal.
If you have other members of staff you should consider whether they should be in the affected pool of employees with the person you mention in your question. This would be the case for example, if they shared work.
You will find support on the BERR website by clicking here and will be relieved to find that there is no redundancy compensation for employees with less than 2 years service.