Employers may soon be required to pay all apprentices an age-based hourly wage, according to a proposal by the TUC.
In a submission to the Low Pay Commission (LPC), the TUC suggests three age-based rates with a discount of 10 to 15 per cent from the existing national minimum wage. At present, those under the age of 19 and older apprentices in their first year are currently exempt from it.
In the proposal, apprentices aged between 16 and 17 will receive £3-£3.18 per hour, 18- to 20-year-olds will be given £4.05-£4.29 and those aged 21 and over will be paid £4.87-£5.15.
The TUC estimates between 11,000 and 14,000 apprentices would be better off with this new pay system as more than half are missing out. Some apprentices currently receive as little as £2 an hour or work for free.
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “When the Government introduced a minimum weekly pay rate for apprentices in 2005, employer groups warned it would scare businesses away from offering training places. In fact the reverse happened, apprenticeship starts went up and so did the proportion of apprentices completing their course.
But enforcement of the weekly rate is weak and by making sure all apprentices are entitled to a minimum wage, the Low Pay Commission can prevent exploitation and improve the quality of apprentices.”
The TUC met with the LPC on Friday and the outcome will be announced in February 2010. The earliest date the national minimum wage will be put in place for apprentices is October 2010.