20% pay rise for apprentices

Last week, David Cameron and Nick Clegg announced a 20% pay rise for apprentices to start from October 20151.

The 20% increase will push the statutory minimum wage for 16 to 18 year olds (and 19 year olds in their first year of an apprenticeship) up from the current rate of £2.73 per hour to £3.30 per hour later this year.

This 57p pay rise is the biggest increase that apprentices have ever experienced in the UK and is eight times more than the recommended 7p increase that the Low Pay Commission (LPC), an independent advisory body to government, advocated but was rejected on.

In contrast, although in line with LPC recommendations, the hourly National Minimum Wage rose by just 20p to £6.70 for adult workers and 17p to £5.30 for those aged between 18 and 20.

Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, said: “This is just one of the many ways in which we’ve created a fairer society whilst building a stronger economy. If you work hard, this government is behind you all the way. Whether you’re on low pay or starting your dream career through an apprenticeship you will get more support to help you go further and faster.”

Prime Minister David Cameron billed the announcement as a real win for hard working Brits, stating: “At the heart of our long-term economic plan for Britain is a simple idea – that those who put in, should get out, that hard work is really rewarded, that the benefits of recovery are truly national. That’s what today’s announcement is all about, saying to hardworking taxpayers, this is a government that is on your side. It will mean more financial security for Britain’s families and a better future for our country.”

However, the reforms have been met with some criticism.

Chuku Umunna, the Shadow Business Secretary, believes that the disparity of the wage increases means that working families will now be worse off.

The Labour MP said: “This 20p rise [in the headline rate] falls far short of the £7 minimum wage which George Osborne promised over a year ago. Where under David Cameron we’ve seen the value of the minimum wage eroded, we need a recovery for working people.”

John Cridland, director general of The Confederation of British Industry, also hinted that the generous hike in apprentice wages could be a strategic move to gain political advantage ahead of the General Election.

Within the plumbing industry, the news has been well received.

Kevin Wellman, CEO of the Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering (CIPHE) and a proactive supporter of vocational education, said: “I welcome the increase for apprentices as it should assist to recognise and appreciate their value in the workplace. Anything that is done to encourage hard working individuals to pursue a career in plumbing is to be applauded2.”

1 Employment for students. Bumper 20% Pay Rise for Apprenticeships. [Online] Available at: http://www.e4s.co.uk/news/articles/view/1895/job-news-and-information/Bumper-20-Pay-Rise-For-Apprenticeships.
2 CIPHE, 2015. Pay increase for apprentices. [Online] Available at: http://www.ciphe.org.uk/professional-members/news/pay-increase-for-apprentices/.
[Accessed 23rd March 2015].

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