HMRC National Minimum Wage compliance activity targeting employers of apprentices

HMRC National Minimum Wage compliance activity targeting employers of apprentices

Friday, 04 June 2021

The Low Pay Commission have previously highlighted the issue of a significant proportion (approx. 27%) of apprentices not being paid the appropriate rate of National Minimum Wage (NMW), a problem which appears to be ongoing for HMRC, whose job it is to ensure compliance.

Whilst deliberate non-compliance by unscrupulous employers is not unknown, HMRC are equally aware that genuine errors can occur and one such area that seems to have caught their attention, at the moment, is in respect of those employees that have been paid at the apprenticeship rate over the last 14 months.

To recap, apprentices are entitled to the apprentice rate if they’re either:

• aged under 19
• aged 19 or over and in the first year of their apprenticeship
• engaged under a contract of apprenticeship or
• a worker and participating on a specific Government training programme.

HMRC’s concern is that given the disruption caused by COVID-19 that the necessary training requirements which attach to an apprenticeship, may not have been met and they are therefore issuing letters to employers who have employees on the apprenticeship rate, asking them to provide evidence that despite COVID-19, the employee did maintain their regular training schedule.

The consequence, of course, of training not being undertaken (be it due to closure of the study facilities or the business) is that the employee should have been paid the age applicable rate of National Minimum Wage and not the apprenticeship rate for any hours worked.

If you have received such a letter or have any concerns regarding NMW, please get in touch with your usual contact. You can find contact details on the Our People section of the Larking Gowen website. Alternatively, call 0330 024 0888 or email

Tessa Brown



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