Government must clamp down on abuse of minimum wage for apprentices

In response to the publication of the government’s Apprenticeship Pay Survey 2014, the TUC is calling on ministers to take tougher action on employers who break minimum wage rules.

The survey published by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) finds that around one in seven (14 per cent) apprentices are not receiving the minimum wage they are entitled to, despite the fact that the rates for apprentices are already substantially lower than the main adult rate.

Apprentices aged 16 to 18 years old were more likely to be underpaid, with 24 per cent receiving lower pay than their legal entitlement, according to the BIS survey.

Sectors where more young women tend to work have higher rates of underpayment, including 42 per cent in hairdressing who are paid less than the minimum wage and 26 per cent in childcare.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “This report exposes some shocking abuse, with many apprentices being paid less than the legal minimum. It’s particularly bad in sectors where more women work, such as hairdressing where more than a third of apprentices are underpaid, and childcare where a quarter are.

“Younger apprentices are the most likely to be treated badly, with nearly a quarter of them paid below the minimum wage. A small number of employers may be making genuine mistakes, but there are worrying signs that some apprentices are simply being exploited as cheap labour. Apprentices are a real asset to employers and deserve to be properly valued.

“The TUC strongly supports quality apprenticeships, but is concerned that such widespread pay exploitation may put off young people from signing up for one. The government should focus more minimum wage enforcement action on tackling apprenticeships pay abuses and withdraw training funding from cheating employers. Tackling abuse would be made easier if apprenticeship minimum wages were simplified and increased to the same level as for other young workers.”