The national minimum wage could be extended to 16 and 17-year-olds after the government told the Low Pay Commission it did not want teenagers being exploited by low wages.

However, the Department for Trade and Industry report to the LPC, said that any minimum rate should be set at a “cautious level” so that opportunities and incentives to remain in education or take up a training course would not be compromised.

Shopworkers union USDAW welcomed the new stance from the government. General secretary Sir Bill Connor described it as a “significant breakthrough” in its campaign to protect teenage workers.