New figures released today from the Apprenticeship Pay Survey 2016 reveal that nearly two in ten apprentices are being cheated out of the minimum wage.
Unions have called on the UK Government to “name and shame” businesses who unlawfully pay apprentices less than the minimum legal rate.
According to the survey, a shocking 18% of apprentices were paid less than the minimum wage rate they were entitled to in 2016, up from 15% in 2014.
The TUC accused businesses of exploiting apprentices by paying them less than they are legally entitled to, with young women among many of the worst affected.
Apprentices working in the hairdressing and childcare sectors, both of which consist mainly of women, were the most likely to be paid less than the minimum wage rate in 2016 – 46% and 27% respectively.
These are closely following by construction (25%), electrotechnical (23%), and health and social care (17%).
Increases in non-compliance with minimum wage laws were noted in all of the above sectors.
There were also differences between age groups. The results of the survey reveal that 32% of apprentices between the ages of 19 and 24 were paid less than the national minimum wage in 2016, which has recently been replaced by the so-called ‘National Living Wage‘ (NLW), compared to 31% of apprentices aged 25 and over.
Apprentices aged 16-18 fared a little better, with 13% paid below the minimum wage rate in 2016 – up from 10% in 2014.
Responding to the findings, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “It is shocking that so many apprentices are being cheated out of the pay they have earned.
“Bosses in hairdressing and childcare are the worst offenders – meaning that thousands of young women are being denied their legal rights.
“Workers at the start of their working life are entitled to be paid the national minimum wage.
“Ministers must urgently find the employers responsible for breaking the law, name them publicly and prosecute them.”
Rebecca Long-Bailey MP, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, said: “That there are apprentices who are paid less than minimum wage is unacceptable, that the practice is on the rise is shocking.
“The Government has not taken sufficient steps to enforce payment of the minimum wage. Employment rights are only safe in Labour hands.”
How much is the NMW/NLW?
Workers aged 25 and over – £7.50 an hour.
Workers aged 21 to 24 – £7.05 an hour.
Workers aged 18-20 – £5.60 an hour.
Workers aged under 18 – £4.05 an hour.
Apprentices – just £3.50 an hour.
* April 2017 rates.