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Why Organise members support a living wage for apprentices

Apprenticeships in the UK pay less than the national minimum wage, making it difficult for apprentices to cover basic needs. Read why Organise members support a living wage for apprentices.

Roxana Khan-Williams
June 15, 2023

Apprenticeships are vital in the professional development of young people in the UK. However, while apprenticeships provide skills, training, and employment opportunities, there’s one thing they currently fail to offer: fair pay. Right now, apprentices are paid less than the minimum wage, leaving them struggling to meet even their basic needs. Here’s why Organise members support a living wage for apprentices so they can afford essential costs like rent, transportation, and food.

Unfair apprentice pay 💸

Apprenticeships are a great way for young people to kickstart their careers and gain valuable experience without running up thousands of pounds in student debt. However, apprentices are currently paid only £5.28 an hour, which is far lower than the national minimum wage of £7.49 an hour, or £10.18 for people aged 21 or over.

As one Organise member expressed:

"With me being someone looking for an apprenticeship role to get started with my professional career, this current lack of pay for working and studying apprentices is most concerning for me to see, and thus demands change to be made in the immediate-term future."

This wage disparity makes apprenticeships practically unliveable as it fails to cover basic necessities like rent, travel to and from work, or food for apprentice workers. All workers deserve a decent living wage that provides stability and covers essential expenses.

"My daughter is still on an apprenticeship as a hairdresser completing level 3. She now lives with her partner and struggles massively to buy food & get to work. She works so hard for the salon as well as studying for such little wage!"
An Organise report titled "12,308 Organise Members say: Pay apprentices a living wage!" in front of Big Ben and Parliament.

The impact on apprentices and their families 🛠️

Insufficient apprentice pay impacts puts an unfair financial burden on young workers and causes unnecessary stress for their families, too. A parent in the Organise network shared:

"I have two sons who could be directly affected by this. It is a struggle to support young people living at home if they don't earn enough for their upkeep. Also, it means it's impossible for them to leave home, and work is not always available local to their family home."

Without a living wage, the value of apprenticeships is undermined, with young workers often forced into jobs that provide a minimum wage, losing out on the training and growth they might have accessed as an apprentice. An Organise member pointed to the resulting lack of skilled trade workers, saying:

"No wonder we have a shortage of trades; how do you pay your way in life on this wage!"

A living wage for apprentices 🪜

Fair pay for apprentices is essential to ensure that young people from all backgrounds can pursue apprenticeships without the worry of financial instability. As one Organise member put it:

"I believe that young people should be paid fairly and in line with the cost of living, as not all young ones have the support of family."

A living wage also acknowledges the time and effort apprentices invest in their education and training. Unfortunately, many apprentices aren’t provided enough time off to study and one Organise member stated that some employers exploit apprentices’ hard work.

"The wages are only part of the problem. Many apprentices are not given the time off to study, and the 'training' is barely existent. Employers are using them as a means of cheap labor without keeping their side of the contract."

Faced with all of these challenges, apprentices have been speaking out on Organise. Organiser Mary, aged 23, was forced to drop out of her business apprenticeship after just four months, because she wasn’t able to afford to travel to work. Now, Mary is campaigning on behalf of all apprentices for a living wage.

“I was aware of the wage going into it, but had a significant amount saved up from my previous job in hospitality so thought the career opportunities would make it worth it. I was quickly made aware that renting would be impossible, as my income was so low that I couldn’t pass credit checks, and I would have had to take on a second job at least in order to afford somewhere to live.”

Mary is leading the campaign to ensure that apprentices are paid at least 80% of the national minimum wage - that’s £8.14 an hour for workers aged 21 or over. Mary argues that a living wage would alleviate the financial pressures and stress that apprentices currently face.

“Between paying for the commute into work, the cost of living crisis and general expenses, by the end of 4 months I had lost all of my savings, one day having to go into my overdraft to pay for the bus into work. The stress of my finances was having a serious impact on my health.”

Mary isn’t alone in calling for apprentice pay to be increased in line with minimum wage - her Organise campaign has received over 13,000 signatures and thousands of messages of support for young workers.

“To be able to see the support behind this has been extremely validating to my experience, which has on the whole felt like a major set back. I’m so hopeful going forward that people are really made aware of this problem, because I feel that unless you are experiencing it, or know someone who does, it would just pass you by. If you do 80% of a job, you deserve 80% of the wage, regardless of age.”

The current apprenticeship pay in the UK is woefully inadequate and leaves young people struggling to make ends meet. Apprentices deserve a living wage that reflects their hard work and enables them to afford necessities so they can focus on their professional development.

Let’s end the wage disparity for apprentices. Take action with the Organise network now and join the campaign for an apprentice living wage.


Roxana Khan-Williams

Roxy dives in to help Organise members start and win their campaigns. She can help you plan your tactics and build your confidence.