Thousands of apprentices are receiving less than the apprentice minimum wage – and most employers have not faced prosecution from the government for short-changing their staff in that way, according to the Trades Union Congress (TUC).
While the national minimum wage for apprentices under 19 or in their first year of training is £3.50 an hour, the TUC says 135,000 of the 900,000 apprentices in England are being paid less than that rate.
And according to documents obtained by TUC under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, the government have prosecuted “fewer than five” employers who failed to pay the apprentice minimum wage between January 2016 and June 2017.
Chair of the TUC Young Workers’ Forum Craig Dawson said £3.50 per hour was a shockingly low wage – and the evidence showed that too many were not paid even that. "The government is failing in its duty to protect apprentices from bad bosses who exploit them.”
'Shafted on pay'
And TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said thousands of apprentices were “getting shafted on pay day”. “Good apprenticeships can really kickstart a career. That’s why we need to make sure every apprentice has a worthwhile experience on decent pay. These figures show why government needs to step up enforcement of the minimum wage – especially for apprentices.”
In his Autumn Budget earlier this week, chancellor Philip Hammond pledged an increase in the national minimum wage for apprentices 5.7 per cent – from £3.50 to £3.70 per hour – from April 2018.
A spokesman for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: "There are no excuses for underpaying minimum wage rates. Apprentices should get the wages they are owed and the Government will come down hard on employers that break the law. Last year HMRC identified more than £10.9 million of back pay for over 98,000 workers and this year will spend a record £25.3 million on minimum wage enforcement."