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Apprenticeships and the Minimum Wage

CMS Vocational Training Hadyn Luke posted this on Tuesday 12th of November 2019 Hadyn Luke 12/11/2019

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Apprenticeships and the Minimum Wage

The Minimum Wage is the lowest amount that an employer can legally pay an employee for the work they do. The rate varies, depending on age and whether the worker is following an apprenticeship.

In the financial year beginning April 2019, the minimum hourly wage was set as follows:

Under 18:                            £4.35

Aged 18 to 20:                   £6.15

Aged 21 to 24:                   £7.70

Aged 25 and over:            £8.21

However, the National Apprenticeship Minimum Wage (NAMW) for the same year was set at an hourly rate of £3.90. This rate is for apprentices under the age of 19 or for apprentices aged 19 or over who are in the first year of their apprenticeship.

So an apprentice who is aged 19 at the start of their apprenticeship will receive £3.90 an hour in their first year and £6.17 in their second year.

It is important to understand that an apprentice is not deemed as starting their apprenticeship until they have been inducted and ‘started learning’ with the training provider. This means the employer can only pay the NAMW once the apprentice has been inducted.

Advice for employers paying apprentices

The important thing to remember is that the rates given are the minimum amount that you can pay your apprentice. This means that you can choose to pay them more than this rate at any stage of the apprenticeship.

So why would an employer pay an apprentice more than the minimum rate? Reasons might include:

  • The apprentice has progressed well and/or reached a particular milestone in their apprenticeship
  • The apprentice has been given additional responsibilities
  • You are paying other staff more than the minimum wage and feel it’s appropriate to pay your apprentice in line with this principle

As employers often reward staff with performance-related pay increases, it makes sense to offer the same to your apprentice. This will show that you value their contribution and make it more likely that a high-achieving apprentice will want to stay on at your firm after they have completed their training.

How can paying above the National Apprenticeship Minimum Wage help you attract staff?

Every employer wants to attract the best staff to their company. Recruitment is a time-consuming business and it can take a lot of effort to find enthusiastic, motivated and capable workers.

If you are looking for a high-calibre apprentice but advertise the apprenticeship at the National Apprenticeship Minimum Wage, you may find it harder to find the right candidate and you might not get as many applicants for the role.

What about existing employees looking to upskill via an apprenticeship?

If one of your current employees applies for an apprenticeship to increase their skills and earning potential, you can only pay them the NAMW rate once they have been inducted on their apprenticeship.

Again, the NAMW should be considered a minimum rate, and employers should consider whether an existing member of staff should find their hourly rate dropping to significantly less when they are taking a positive step to improve themselves through training.

Once they have completed their apprenticeship, they should have more skills to offer your company and it’s worth nurturing and rewarding staff who take a positive step towards self-improvement that will benefit your business.

What about employees and apprentices who believe they are not being fairly paid?

If you think your employer is not paying you at the correct rate, you should talk to the company’s Human Resources officer.

If you are still not satisfied, you can contact the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) for advice. Acas (www.acas.org.uk) is an organisation providing free and impartial advice to both employers and employees, covering employment law and other aspects of workplace relations. It also offers conciliation and training services.

The ACAS helpline is open from 8am-6pm on Monday to Friday and the number to call is: 0300 123 1100 (note: there may be a charge for phoning this helpline).

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