Next has been accused of employing low-earning apprentices to shave £2.5m off its wage bill, while providing them with inadequate support.
Next New Oxford Street
A Channel 4 Dispatches programme, Low Pay Britain, which aired on Monday, claimed the retailer was given nearly £1.8m of public funds last year for training 800 apprentices, who each worked 30 hours a week.
Dispatches claimed that, because the apprentice minimum wage of £3.30 an hour is lower than that of normal workers over the age of 21, which is £6.70 an hour, this would have saved Next a total of £2.5m.
The programme also revealed that Next has stopped recruiting to its retail, wholesale and call centre apprenticeship schemes after they were rated “inadequate” by education watchdog Ofsted in August.
Ofsted inspectors, who visited Next in July, concluded that not enough support was being provided for its 583 apprentices or their managers, and expressed concern about high dropout rates.
A spokesman for Next said it had accepted the report’s findings and recommendations and “immediately commenced a vigorous programme of improvements”.
It received an “encouraging” monitoring visit from Ofsted in September, but admitted it still has more to do. It will not take on new apprentices until it has achieved “a much improved” inspection.
Next said it pays apprentices 67% above the statutory legal minimum of £3.30 per hour.