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A Guide to the National Minimum Wage

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What You Need to Know

  1. The National Minimum Wage (NMW) is the minimum amount per hour that most workers in the UK are entitled to be paid, whatever the job they are doing.
  2. There are not regional discrepancies; the minimum wage is uniform across the country.
  3. As of 2012, workers over the age of 21 are legally entitled to £6.08 per hour and workers aged between 16 and 20 are entitled to a minimum of £4.98 per hour.
  4. Apprentices under the age of 19 or over 19 and in the first year of their apprenticeship are entitled to £3.60 an hour.
  5. Tips and other gratuities must be paid on top of a minimum wage, they cannot be used to make up your National Minimum Wage pay, despite what some bosses may say.
  6. Should you have reason to believe that your employer is not following the NMW rules, you should call the Pay and Work Rights Helpline for help and advice.
  7. Even if you have signed a contract agreeing to work for less, you are still entitled to be paid the minimum wage.

What is the National Minimum Wage?

The National Minimum Wage (NMW) is the minimum amount per hour that most workers in the UK are entitled to be paid, whatever the job they are doing. If people are being paid below the NMW then they need to get in touch with the correct authorities to get confidential state-supported help. As far as the NMW goes, there are a number of different levels depending on the age of the individual and whether or not they are an apprentice.

  • As of March 2012, the minimum wage for all workers over the age of 21 stands at £6.08 per hour. From October 2012, this will increase to £6.19 an hour.
  • Workers aged between 16 and 20 are required to be paid a minimum of £4.98 per hour. This rate will not be increased in October 2012.
  • Meanwhile, workers above the school leaving age but under 18 are entitled to a minimum wage of £3.68 per hour. Again, this will not be going up in October 2012.
  • Apprentices under the age of 19 or over 19 and in the first year of their apprenticeship are entitled to £3.60 an hour.

Workers not covered by the NMW are people are those of the compulsory school age. Note, however, that, while all workers above the school leaving age are entitled to a minimum wage, other employment rights also may differ.

Additionally, those classed as ‘self-employed’ are not entitled to a minimum wage. If your employment status is in doubt, the onus is on the employer to prove you are self-employed rather than an employee.

Employers and the National Minimum Wage

Almost all workers in the UK over school leaving age are legally entitled to be paid the NMW and all employers must pay it to them if they are entitled to it, whether or not they are paid weekly or monthly, or by cheque or cash. The same rules apply if the employee is working full time, part time or any other working pattern, at their employer's own premises or elsewhere. Geographical areas of work also do not sway the payment of NMW, so workers in London have the same pay rights as their peers in the north-east of England, for example.

If You’re Being Underpaid…

Should you have reason to believe that your employer is not following the NMW rules, you should call the Pay and Work Rights Helpline for help and advice, and should. This service is available freephone on 0800 917 2368. All calls are treated in confidence, so you needn’t worry about your employer finding out about your tip-off. Additionally, the service can handle calls in over 100 languages.

Note that, even if you sign a contract agreeing to be paid at a lower rate, you still need to be paid minimum wage as the contract is of no legal effect. Again, the Pay and Work Rights Helpline will be able to help you with this.

Working out if you are getting paid the legal amount is, in most cases relatively straightforward. However, if your employer provides you with accommodation or if you are a member of your employer’s family, you may not be entitled to the NWM. Note that, despite what some employers maintain, tips cannot be used to make your pay up to NMW levels. For more advice on calculating whether your income matches the minimum wage, visit the Gov.uk website.

Further Reading

 

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