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TUC report calls for apprentices to be protected by national minimum wage

A new report published by the Trade Union Congress has called for all apprentices to be protected by the minimum wage. They argue that the change will have a direct influence on the number of low paid apprentices completing courses, as well as tackling exploitation by employers who use the scheme as a means of accessing cheap labour.



The TUC report shows that the introduction in 2005 of an £80 minimum weekly pay rate for apprentices in England has had a big impact in improving completion rates. Apprenticeship completion rates have more than doubled over the last five years, from 28 per cent in 2002/03 to 63 per cent in 2006/07. The rate of improvement has been greatest in low-paid sectors such as child care (181 per cent improvement in completion rates), health and social care (150 per cent) and hairdressing (125 per cent).



However, the TUC report argues that these rates still need to improve, particularly in low-paid sectors, where around four in ten apprentices do not complete their training. The TUC cites Government-commissioned research by the National Foundation for Educational Research, which found that 27 per cent of apprentices who had dropped out of the training stated 'not getting enough money' as the main reason.



Female apprentices, who dominate the low-paid sectors, bear the brunt of poor apprentice pay and earn on average 21 per cent less than male apprentices. Increasing pay would therefore also help to reduce the gender pay gap in apprenticeships, which is currently higher than the rest of the labour market average of 17 per cent.



Apprentice pay has long been incorporated into the minimum wage regulations in Australia, whilst the Republic of Ireland has set minimum wage rates for apprentices since 2002. In both countries, the number of number of apprenticeships has continued to grow, allaying any fears that increasing apprentice pay would deter employers from offering training places.



TUC General Secretary

Brendan Barber

said: 'Apprentices need to complete their training if it is to fully benefit themselves or their employer, so increasing completion rates is absolutely vital to the success of apprenticeships.



'Ten years on from the minimum wage becoming law, millions of low-paid workers have benefitted from better pay and protection from exploitation. It's now time for apprentices to benefit from these rights too.

'Apprenticeships are very different today from the traditional model, with many trainees finishing their programme within a year. This development must be reflected in their pay and conditions.

'Evidence from the UK and across the world shows that decent pay must be at the heart of any successful apprenticeships programme. The Low Pay Commission must use this evidence to bring all apprentices under the national minimum wage regime. At only a small cost to a minority of employers, this would help apprentices who are struggling to afford their training, particularly women.'

Ends

posted by

Asif Yusuf
Publisher

 

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