Unions have welcomed government plans to set a national minimum wage for apprentices, to protect them from exploitation.
Under existing rules, apprentices under the age of 18 are exempt from the National Minimum Wage. Apprentices aged 19 or older are also exempt in the first year of their apprenticeship.
Brendan Barber, TUC general secretary, said: “Protecting apprentices from low pay and exploitation through the minimum wage would be a small cost to a minority of employers but would go a long way towards boosting the quality and reputation of apprenticeships.
“Apprentices who receive decent pay are far more likely to complete their training.”
Dave Prentis, general secretary of public sector union Unison, added: “Apprenticeships are vital in helping young people into work, especially during the economic downturn. And a minimum wage will further opportunities and help prevent exploitation.
“We need an end to the wide variation of apprentices’ pay and they need an enforceable, truly UK-wide rate.”
Announcing the proposal on Friday, McFadden insisted that any recommendations made by the commission would balance the needs of low paid workers and businesses.
There is already a guaranteed weekly rate of pay for Learning and Skills Council apprenticeships, currently £80, whichwillincrease to £95 in August.