Livery yards are being warned to be aware of employment rules, after an owner lost a legal case brought by three apprentices who claimed they were not paid the minimum rate.

Apprentices Jenna Carter and Jessica Wood had complained to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) that they were not being paid as much as they were entitled to by Sophie Ball of Skilts Farm Stables in Redditch when working for her in 2012.

Their case was upheld by Birmingham Employment Tribunal last month (5 August).

Mrs Ball lost her appeal against the decision and HMRC has now made a costs claim against Skilts Farm Stables.

She said the discrepancy over pay was complicated by the fact that she deducted the £20 weekly grass livery charge for Ms Carter’s horse from her salary.

“This brought her salary under the minimum wage rate. Had I known I had to give her £20 in her hand and then have her give it back to me, I would have done that,” admitted Mrs Ball.

Apprentices are paid £2.68 an hour in the first year, and work a minimum of 30 hours a week, up to a maximum of 40 hours.

David Pettifor of the Association of British Riding Schools said: “Apprentices get valuable training and the majority of yards are paying above the apprentice rate.”

Skilts Farm Stables is British Horse Society (BHS) approved.

“Apprenticeships are a great means of giving young people a route into work through experience, training and qualifications. However, it’s imperative that the work apprentices contribute is appropriately recognised, in line with regulations,”added the BHS’ Sarah Phillips.

More information on apprentice wages

First published in Horse & Hound magazine on Thursday 4 September