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Horse & Law Issue 15 - Taking on an Apprentice Jockey

03 August 2016

An apprentice’s first few years of employment are essential in forming the foundations of their career as a jockey. Their mentors and employers play a significant role in this development. Apprentices are contracted to work for a trainer who provides training and advice to help them develop the skills they need for a successful career. In return for their input the trainer receives a portion of the apprentice’s earnings.

When a trainer agrees to employ an apprentice jockey, they agree to an apprenticeship term of four years. Often a trainer will be faced with a talented apprentice leaving halfway through an apprenticeship, or the jockey leaving the stables as soon as the apprenticeship is complete. At law it is difficult for an employer to prevent an apprentice from transferring or leaving their employment. However, trainers can take steps to limit the potential loss and disruption to their business in the event the apprentice leaves during the four year term or after, should the apprentice stay on as a stable jockey.

In other industries employers may include a restraint of trade/noncompetition clause in the employee’s individual employment agreement, where it is a reasonably necessary to protect the employers confidential information if the employee leaves. These clauses are of limited use as it is unlawful in New Zealand to unreasonably restrict an individual from working in their trained area of work. As a jockey usually needs to travel all over the country for race days, it would likely be considered unreasonable restriction if an employer’s restraint of trade clause limited working in all racecourses in New Zealand. However, if the noncompetition clause is short in duration and is necessary to protect a proprietary interest (for example confidential information), then in this situation, an employer could prevent an employee from working for a competitor.

Alternatively, an employer can include a non-solicitation clause in the employee’s individual employment agreement. A non-solicitation clause provides protection against an employee soliciting clients from a former employer. The clause prevents an employee from doing business with the employer’s clients after the employer leaves. However, as with a restraint of trade clause, it is essential that the non-solicitation restriction is reasonably necessary in the circumstances to protect the employer.

If an apprentice expresses interest in working for another trainer, or if the original trainer had limited opportunity for rides over the quieter months, the original trainer could loan the apprentice to another trainer with approved employer status. This arrangement could be an alternative to a trainer and apprentice ending the apprenticeship. This arrangement is provided for by the NZTR and forms can be completed and downloaded from the website. This option may prove advantageous for both parties as the trainers will still receive a percentage of the apprentice’s winnings, and the apprentice will get the opportunity to learn new skills and ride different horses.

Like all employment relationships, good faith is essential for the trainer and the apprentice to achieve a successful partnership. Good faith requires both parties to be active and constructive in establishing and maintaining a productive employment relationship in which the parties are, among other things, responsive and communicative. At times even the best employment relationships end and it is no different in a trainer/apprentice situation.

These are only a few of the options available to trainers who are looking to protect their business. We can help you implement a plan that works best for you. If you have any questions about this article, or any other queries, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Alice Nunn is a Senior Solicitor in the Equine Team at Norris Ward McKinnon. You can contact Alice at alice.nunn@nwm.co.nz.

Alice Nunn

Edwin Sheppard is a Solicitor in the Court & Disputes/Employment Team at Norris Ward McKinnon. You can contact Edwin at edwin.sheppard@nwm.co.nz

Edwin Sheppard 2