Issue date
04 Oct 2013

The TUC today (Friday) called on the government to take urgent action after official figures revealed that three in ten (29 per cent) apprentices were paid less than the legal minimum wage in 2012.

The Apprenticeship Pay Survey, published this afternoon by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, shows that the number of apprentices paid below the correct minimum wage rate increased by 45 per cent in 2012.

However, in some industries, such as children’s care, underpayment shot up by two-thirds (65 per cent).

Seven in ten (69 per cent) hairdressing apprentices were paid less than the legal minimum wage in 2012.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “These findings are shocking and show how many apprentices are currently seen as little more than cheap labour.

“Apprentice exploitation is getting worse across the board. In some industries, such as hairdressing, abuse has become endemic. Ministers must launch investigations now into this abuse.

“This survey also reveals a number of systematic failures in the way apprenticeship pay is being monitored. There are plenty of bad bosses who have deliberately cheated young workers. And it appears many businesses do not understand how minimum wage rates work.

“Unless the government does more to make companies aware of their responsibilities, as well as naming, shaming and persecuting rogue employers, many apprentices will continue to be exploited.”

In its submission to the Low Pay Commission, the TUC has called for the current apprenticeship rate of £2.68 an hour to rise significantly, and for the gap with the 16-17 year-old minimum wage youth rate (£3.72) to close.

The TUC believes the current apprenticeship rate is far lower than is necessary, and that as the economy recovers it needs to rise.

The TUC also believes there is a strong case for apprentices over the age of 24 to be paid the full adult national minimum wage rate of £6.31 an hour, which would reduce confusion and complexity for employers as well as ensuring more people benefit from a fairer wage.


The proportion of apprentices not being paid the legal minimum wage rate (worst five industries)


2011 (per cent)

2012 (per cent)

Change (per cent)





Children’s care








Business Administration








All sector average




Source:  Department for Business, Innovation and Skills

- The 2012 Apprentice Pay Survey revealed that 29 per cent of apprentices interviewed were paid less than the equivalent national minimum wage for their age or year of study. 16 per cent of apprentices were entitled to be on the national minimum wage and were not paid it. A further 13 per cent were not even being paid the apprentice minimum wage rate of £2.65 an hour.

-The apprentice minimum wage rate only applies to apprentices under 19 or in their first year of study. If an apprentice is 19 or over and past their first year they should get the national minimum wage rate that applies to their age.

- A copy of the survey can be found at (page 31)

- The TUC's campaign plan can be downloaded from

- All TUC press releases can be found at

- Follow the TUC on Twitter: @tucnews


Media enquiries:
Liz Chinchen   T: 020 7467 1248    M: 07778 158175    E: [email protected]
Rob Holdsworth    T: 020 7467 1372    M: 07717 531150     E: [email protected]
Alex Rossiter   T: 020 7467 1285    M: 07887 572130     E: [email protected]