Plain English Guide to British Employment Law
National Minimum Wage
Nearly all workers in the UK are entitled to be paid at least the National Minimum Wage (NMW) under employment law. If you are a worker entitled to the NMW your employer is breaking the law if they aren’t paying it.
Who is a worker for National Minimum Wage purposes?
You will be a worker who is entitled to the NMW if:
- you have a contract of employment
- you have a contract to perform work or provide services personally for your employer
- you are not self-employed under the contract
The contract does not have to be in writing, it can be oral or implied.
Being registered as self-employed for tax purposes does not necessarily make you self-employed for National Minimum Wage purposes.
What is the National Minimum Wage?
There are different levels of NMW, depending on your age and whether you are an apprentice. The current rates which came into effect from October 2015 are:
- £6.70 – the main rate for workers aged 21 and over
- £5.30 – the 18-20 rate
- £3.87 – the 16-17 rate for workers above school leaving age but under 18
- £3.30 – the apprentice rate, for apprentices under 19 or 19 or over and in the first year of their apprenticeship
If you are of compulsory school age you are not entitled to the NMW. Some of your other employment law rights are also different.
Living wage coming into force in April 2016
A mandatory “national living wage” (NLW) will come into effect from April 2016. This will be set at £7.20 an hour for workers aged 25 and older – and will effectively replace the NMW for this age group. For those below the age of 25, the NMW rates will still apply.
Note that this mandatory national living wage is distinct from the living wage set by the Living Wage Foundation which is “an independent calculation that reflects the real cost of living” and which currently stands at £7.85 (and £9.15 in London).