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Apprenticeships (Minimum Wage)

Volume 574: debated on Thursday 23 January 2014

16. What recent estimate he has made of the number of apprentices being paid at a rate below the apprenticeship minimum wage. (902149)

The Government have zero tolerance for employers who break the law, which is why we have introduced a range of enhanced enforcement measures to crack down on rogue employers. HMRC prioritises apprentice enforcement cases, and the Government have overseen one of the most successful expansions of apprenticeships with around 1.5 million apprenticeship starts in England since 2010.

Does the Minister agree it is worrying that the proportion of apprentices who are not being paid the apprentice minimum wage has increased to more than one in four? What action is she taking to clamp down on rising non-compliance of employers with the apprentice national minimum wage, which is increasing under her watch?

The hon. Lady is right and the Government are also concerned about the level of non-compliance. Since 1 July, HMRC has been prioritising complaints from apprentices about non-payment of the national minimum wage, and we are ensuring that every single case is investigated. We also started an awareness campaign in November that targets schools, colleges, jobcentres and so on, so that those starting apprenticeships are aware of what they are entitled to. From 1 October the skills Minister has been writing to all apprentices starting a Government-funded scheme to ensure that they know what they are entitled to and that businesses know what they must pay, so that we reduce non-compliance.