Apprentices: Know your minimum wage rights
By Sarah Wood
As the new college year gets underway, apprentices are being advised to make sure they are being paid what they are entitled to it.
As colleges and universities welcome a new intake of apprentices, and others return for their second year, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is reminding apprentices to make sure they are being paid the correct National Minimum Wage - and being paid for every hour they work.
Most workers are legally entitled to be paid at least the National Minimum Wage and this includes apprentices.
The National Minimum Wage is the rate of pay for workers under the age of 23. The National Living Wage is the rate of pay for workers aged 23 and over.
There are different minimum rates of pay for apprentices, depending on their age and what year of their apprenticeship they are in:
• Aged 16 to 18 and in an apprenticeship: The current National Minimum Wage rate for an apprentice is £5.28 per hour.
• Aged 19 or over and in the first year of an apprenticeship: The current National Minimum Wage rate for an apprentice is £5.28 per hour.
• Aged 19 or over and have completed the first year of an apprenticeship: Entitled to the National Minimum Wage or National Living Wage rate for their age eg age 18-20 - £7.49, age 21-22 - £10.18 and over 23+ - £10.42.
For example, a 21-year-old apprentice who is in the first year of their apprenticeship will receive at least the minimum hourly rate of £5.28, but a 21-year-old apprentice who has completed the first year of an apprenticeship is entitled to a minimum hourly rate of £10.18.
Most employers pay their workers the correct amount, but mistakes can be made. The HMRC wants to help employers get things right and pay apprentices correctly.
There are common mistakes that can result in apprentices not receiving the National Minimum Wage which can lead to you being underpaid. These include:
• If an apprentice is aged 19 or over and has completed the first year of their apprenticeship, they must get the correct rate for their age group.
• The apprentice rate of at least £5.28 an hour doesn't apply after an apprenticeship ends. Many apprentices stay on in a job with their employer once the apprenticeship is completed. At this point, they must receive at least the National Minimum Wage for their age.
• Apprentice training or study time is working time, so apprentices must be paid accordingly, whether it takes place at work, college, university or elsewhere - even if it is outside normal working hours.
If apprentices think they are not receiving the correct minimum wage, they should:
• Speak to their employer or tutor if they are happy to do so.
• If they don't feel comfortable doing that, they can always raise the issue with HMRC online at https://www.gov.uk/minimum-wage-complaint.
They can also search 'apprentice' or 'minimum wage' on GOV.UK to find out more.
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