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Research suggests that roughly 1 in 7 apprentices are underpaid the National Minimum Wage.

Underpayment of apprentices was one of the five main causes of non-compliance in the most recent government naming round of employers found to be underpaying the minimum wage. As the number of apprenticeships grow it’s important that employers don’t get caught out.

Things to consider – who’s entitled to what and unpaid working time?

To qualify for the minimum wage apprentice rate a worker must be engaged under either:
  • a contract of apprenticeship signed by both parties but may also be a verbal agreement (express or implied), or
  • an apprenticeship agreement (within the meaning of section 32 of the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009), or
  • a worker on a specific Government training programme.

It’s not enough to just call somebody an apprentice

Apprentices aged under 19 are entitled to the minimum wage apprentice rate, of £3.70 as are apprentices aged 19 or over AND in the first year of their apprenticeship.

Apprentices are entitled to the higher minimum wage for their age if they both:

  • are aged 19 or over
  • have completed the first year of their apprenticeship

So for example an apprentice aged 22 who has completed the first year of their apprenticeship is entitled to a minimum hourly rate of £7.38.

Apprenticeships involve an element of training. Time spent travelling to and attending training is working time for minimum wage purposes and should be included when calculating minimum wage pay. Failure to account for this time can lead to underpayment.

To find out more see our employer’s guide to National Minimum Wage:

Calculating the minimum wage

or watch our webinar series on minimum wage:

Part 1 explains when a worker is entitled to the minimum wage

Part 2 is about the different types of work for minimum wage purposes

Part 3 explains the common underpayment errors to look out for

Part 4 tells you how to put things right if you find an underpayment