Government 'keen to clamp down' on employers offering low apprenticeship pay rates

Apprenticeships are still seeing staff paid under the minimum wage by too many companies, according to the Business Minister.

Jo Swinson told MPs that the 2012 apprenticeship survey found that over one in four (27%) were not paid the going rate, which stood at 2.65 per hour last year.

Apprentices aged under 19 now qualify to get 2.68 per hour.

Ms Swinson said the Government has a zero-tolerance policy for bosses who break this law.

She added: "This is why we've introduced a range of enhanced enforcement measures to crack down on those rogue employers."

Recently unveiled steps aimed at tackling non-compliance include raising the maximum fine to 20,000 and naming and shaming offending companies.

But Labour's Graeme Morrice (Livingston) said it is worrying there has been a rise in the percentage of youngsters not getting the right pay.

The MP added that the amount of 16 to 18 year-olds beginning the training schemes has dropped.

Ms Swinson told the Commons that the Coalition Government has supervised one of the most successful expansions of apprenticeships.

She said there have been about 1.5 million apprenticeship starts since 2010.

Mr Morrice countered that it is "certainly worrying" the percentage of those not getting the apprentice minimum wage has risen and that more than a quarter of apprentices have not been paid it.

He added: "But what firm and decisive action are you taking to clamp down on rising non-compliance of employers towards the apprentice minimum wage, especially when the number of young people aged 16 to 18 starting apprenticeships has fallen?"

Ms Swinson said the Government is "concerned about" and acting on the matter raised by Mr Morrice.

She said revenue and customs officials have prioritised any complaints about the apprenticeship minimum wage since July 1.

The minister added: "We have also made it much easier to name and shame employers who are not paying the minimum wage and we've announced we'll be increasing the maximum penalty fine to 20,000."

She said this "tough" enforcement action programme should help ensure that firms properly pay their staff.

Ms Swinson added: "That's what the public expects and it's what most responsible businesses already do."

Copyright Press Association 2013