National Living Wage and National Minimum Wage – how much should apprentices be paid?


As more employers look to take on apprentices and utilise the apprenticeship funds available, it is important to understand the rules around pay.

Employers have a legal responsibility to pay anyone aged 23 or over at least the National Living Wage, and to pay anyone younger at least the National Minimum Wage (NMW), the amount of which varies depending on age and employment status i.e., whether they are an apprentice or not.

The current hourly rates for both are as follows (increased in April 2023):

National Living Wage

  • For workers aged 23 and over = £10.42

National Minimum Wage

  • For workers aged 21-22 = £10.18
  • For workers aged 18-20 = £7.49
  • For workers and apprentices aged 16-18 = £5.28
  • For apprentices aged 19 or over in their first year = £5.28
  • For apprentices aged 19 or over who have completed their first year = National Minimum Wage or National Living Wage for their age

The rate an apprentice is paid differs depending on their age and how much of their apprenticeship they’ve completed.

If an apprentice is aged 19 or over and has completed the first year of their apprenticeship, they are entitled to the minimum wage for their age and should no longer be paid the £5.28 apprenticeship wage.            

Another common mistake when calculating apprentices’ wages is that training time is classed as working time. Your apprentices must be paid regardless of whether this training takes place at work, college or elsewhere.                      

In June, the Government publicly named more than 200 UK employers who failed to pay their lowest-paid staff the National Minimum Wage (NMW) – with 21% of those paying the incorrect rates of pay to apprentices.

High Street brands including Marks and Spencer, Lloyds Pharmacy and WH Smith were listed among the 202 employers who breached NMW law and failed to pay 63,000 workers a total of almost £5m.

The results showed 39% of employers deducted pay from workers’ wages (for items such as uniform, meals and equipment), while a further 39% failed to pay staff correctly for their working time.

The investigations, which took place between 2017 and 2019, resulted in penalties of nearly £7m for the businesses that failed to comply with the law. This is a clear reminder of the importance of understanding the rules around pay, not just for apprentices, but for all employees.

Find out more about the payroll services our specialists at Armstrong Watson offer – plus the answers to some FAQs  - here


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