Council defends low pay for apprentice role

JPCT 130312 Park North, Hosham District Council office. Photo by Derek Martin
JPCT 130312 Park North, Hosham District Council office. Photo by Derek Martin

Horsham District Council has defended its decision to recruit a secretarial apprentice after being accused of not meeting the minimum wage.

Earlier this year two senior secretaries were made redundant saving the council £70,000 a year and the council then agreed to recruit a full time secretarial support apprentice.

The post, aimed at people aged 18 to 24, has a starting salary £8,839 progressing up to £9,435 in the second year.

When the advert was posted on Twitter, it sparked a debate over whether the salary met minimum wage.

The national minimum wage for a full time non-apprentice aged 18 to 20 is £9,581 and for those over 21 is £11,909.55.

But HDC has defended the decision saying it is an opportunity for young people to gain good experience.

A spokesman said: The role of an apprentice gives an individual the opportunity to grow and learn by developing skills within a specific work area, the role will be very much nurtured and support will be provided by a number of mechanisms, which will include close support from experienced staff who will provide guidance and will share their knowledge and skills.

“The apprentice will undertake training to attain a relevant NVQ of which some of their time will be spend studying. Horsham District Council will also pay for course/tuition fees as required. In addition, the apprentice will receive 22 days annual leave a year and eight bank holidays.

“The salary paid is set in line with the National Apprenticeship Scheme and exceeds the starting salaries set out in the NMW and is benchmarked with similar local government apprentice salaries.

“The NMW for apprentices, taken from HM Revenue and Customs, is:

· for apprentices aged under 19: £2.60 per hour (£5,002.40 per year, increasing to £5,098.60 per year from October 2012)

· for apprentices aged 19 and over, but in the first year of their apprenticeship: £2.60 per hour (same as above)

“Apprentices aged 19 or over who have completed one year of their apprenticeship i.e. from year two, are entitled to receive the NMW rate applicable to their age. This will be reviewed if appropriate once the successful candidates have been appointed.

“The successful applicant can look forward to earning a salary, getting paid holidays, receiving training and gaining qualifications and learning on the job specific skills.

“The council has introduced this scheme as an initiative to support local young adults in the workplace, providing an opportunity to develop skills, confidence and sought after work experience.”