EIGHTEEN per cent of young people on slave labour apprenticeship schemes are illegally being paid less than the minimum wage, according to the government’s own long-delayed survey.
This is an even bigger scandal when you consider that the minimum wage for 16-18 year-olds at the time when the data was gathered in 2016 was just £3.30 an hour. The TUC has called for all bosses who illegally pay under the minimum wage to be prosecuted.
42% of young hairdressers were illegally being paid under the minimum wage in 2014. This rose to 47% in 2016. 24% of young construction workers were paid less than the minimum wage in 2014. This rose to 28% in 2016.
The 2016 survey was carried out through telephone interviews with apprentices. In total, 4,963 interviews were conducted. The figures painted an extremely worrying picture. For those aged 16 to 18 or in their first year of an apprenticeship, 13% were paid below the National Minimum Wage, a rise of 3%.
And for ages 19 to 20 and in second year of their apprenticeship, the figure was 34% in 2016 a rise of 2%. TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: ‘It is shocking that so many apprentices are being cheated out of the pay they have earned. Bosses in hairdressing and childcare are the worst offenders – meaning that thousands of young women are being denied their legal rights.
‘Workers at the start of their working life are entitled to be paid the national minimum wage. Ministers must urgently find the employers responsible for breaking the law, name them publicly and prosecute them.’
Mark Serwotka, general secretary of public services union PCS, said that young people are being ‘exploited as cheap labour by unscrupulous employers’. Teachers’ union ATL said that the government’s apprenticeship programme is a ‘free-for-all’ where employers are getting away with providing sub-standard apprenticeships which are ‘not in any way useful to young people’.