The national minimum wage

The national minimum wage sets minimum hourly rates that employers must pay their workers. It covers almost all workers in the UK. There are three aged based rates and an apprentice rate. This guide provides a basic overview of the national minimum wage and explains the role of HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) in enforcing it.

The rules in this area can be complicated, so at various stages this guide also provides links to other sources of information. These will give you the greater detail needed to calculate national minimum wage requirements for individual workers.

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Current national minimum wage rates

There are currently three aged based national minimum wage rates and an apprentice rate, which are usually updated in October each year. The rates that apply from 1 October 2013 are as follows:

  • for workers aged 21 years or more: £6.31 per hour
  • for workers aged 18 to 20 inclusive: £5.03 per hour
  • for workers aged under 18 (but above compulsory school age): £3.72 per hour
  • for apprentices aged under 19: £2.68 per hour
  • for apprentices aged 19 and over, but in the first year of their apprenticeship: £2.68 per hour

Apprentices aged 19 or over who have completed one year of their apprenticeship are entitled to receive the national minimum wage rate applicable to their age.

See more information on the national minimum wage rates for earlier years on the GOV.UK website by following the link below

National minimum wage entitlement, rates and arrears checker on the GOV.UK website (Opens new window)

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Who's entitled to the national minimum wage?

Almost all workers who work in the UK are entitled to the national minimum wage. But there are some groups who aren't entitled, including:

  • self-employed people
  • children who are still of compulsory school age

For a full list of all the exceptions, follow the link at the end of this section.

It makes no difference to a worker's entitlement to the national minimum wage whether they work for you full time or part time, or whether they are an agency worker, a temporary or casual worker, a piece worker or a home worker.

Who gets the minimum wage on the GOV.UK website (Opens new window)

Who is not entitled to the national minimum wage on the GOV.UK website (Opens new window)

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Which payments count towards the national minimum wage?

National minimum wage pay is calculated in a certain way. Many of the payments that you make to a worker will count towards their national minimum wage pay, but some won't. For example, a worker's basic pay (before deductions of tax and National Insurance) counts towards national minimum wage pay, but any payments for expenses do not count.

Find out if you are paying the national minimum wage on the GOV.UK website (Opens new window)

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How many hours has your worker worked?

Every worker who's entitled to the national minimum wage must be paid at least their national minimum wage rate on average for every hour worked in each pay reference period (the pay reference period is the interval at which you pay them - such as weekly or monthly, but it cannot be longer than a calendar month).

This means that to work out how much you're required to pay a worker, you need to calculate how many hours they have worked. For national minimum wage purposes, there are four different types of work, and there are different rules for calculating the number of hours worked for each of these.

The four types of work are:

  • time work
  • salaried-hours work
  • output work
  • unmeasured work

For full details of how the national minimum wage applies to each type of work, follow the links below

Read about hours for which the national minimum wage must be paid - paid by the hour on the GOV.UK website (Opens new window)

Read about hours for which the national minimum wage must be paid - paid an annual salary on the GOV.UK website (Opens new window)

Read about hours for which the national minimum wage must be paid - paid per task or piece of work done on the GOV.UK Link website (Opens new window)

Read about hours for which the national minimum wage must be paid - unmeasured work on the GOV.UK website (Opens new window)

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Record keeping

You must keep records that show you pay at least the national minimum wage to anyone who works for you and is entitled to it.

You must keep these records for at least three years, but it's a good idea to keep them for six years (five years in Scotland) in order to show that you have paid at least national minimum wage rates if a civil claim is brought against you.

HMRC compliance officers are entitled to ask you to produce your records for inspection.

Read more about employer checks and record keeping for the national minimum wage on the GOV.UK website (Opens new window)

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Calculating arrears

If you realise you haven't paid a worker at least the national minimum wage requirement, then you must work out and pay the arrears to the worker.

Changes from 6 April 2009 mean that you must calculate any arrears using a formula that includes the current national minimum wage rate and you may end up paying more than you would have if you had paid the correct amount to start with.

Use the national minimum wage calculator on the GOV.UK website (Opens new window)

Check national minimum wage entitlement and rates on the GOV.UK website (Opens new window)

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Enforcement and penalties

HMRC enforces the national minimum wage. If HMRC finds you have underpaid the national minimum wage it will issue a notice of underpayment. This will show the arrears you must pay to your workers and the penalty you must pay to HMRC.

Details of how and where to appeal will be included with the notice of underpayment.

Enforcement of the national minimum wage - find out more on the GOV.UK website (Opens new window)

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Paying national minimum wage - further help

If you need more help and advice about paying the national minimum wage, you can contact the Pay and Work Rights Helpline.

Find contact details for the Pay and Work Rights Helpline

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