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National minimum wage


The national minimum wage (NMW) applies to all workers and is paid at different rates according to age. There is a separate rate for apprentices, and a National Living Wage (NLW) applies to workers aged 25 and over. The current and future rates for the minimum wage (which represents gross pay) are as follows:

Age Rate from 1 April 2017 Rate from 1 April 2018
Workers aged 25 and over (NLW) £7.50 an hour £7.83 an hour
Workers aged 21 and over £7.05 an hour £7.38 an hour
Development rate for workers aged 18-20 £5.60 an hour £5.90 an hour
Young workers rate for workers aged 16-17 £4.05 an hour £4.20 an hour
Apprentices under 19, or over 19 and in the first year of the apprenticeship £3.50 an hour £3.70 an hour
Employers paying output workers, including home workers, piece rates (payment according to the number of items produced or tasks completed) must either pay the minimum wage for every hour worked, or a 'fair piece rate' (currently set at 120 per cent of the NMW). 

The minimum wage rates are reviewed annually and will be updated in April.

Key points

  • All workers, except those who are genuinely self-employed, are entitled to receive the NMW/NLW
  • Gross pay is used to calculate whether an eligible worker has been paid the minimum wage
  • The NMW/NLW is calculated by including most financial awards or payments, but excluding allowances such as regional or on-call allowances, unsocial hours payments, tips and gratuities, or any benefits in kind, with the exception of accommodation up to a specified amount
  • Employers can average the hourly rate of pay over the pay period
  • Non-compliance can result in an enforcement notice requiring the employer to pay the difference between what was actually paid and what the worker should have received under the NMW legislation. Further non-compliance could result in the issue of a penalty notice and financial penalties.
  • The government expects the rate to rise to over £9 by 2020 (a government policy paper explains the thinking behind the NLW).

Recent developments

Sleep ins and NMW - Court of Appeal decision
The Court of Appeal has decided that there is no entitlement to NMW for time spent asleep during a care worker's sleep in shift. In making this ruling, the Court declared that previous binding case law which decided, for example, that NMW applied to sleeping hours in the situation where a worker would be disciplined if they left the workplace, was wrong.
This decision now leaves questions over current Government guidance and the continuance of the Social Care Compliance Scheme. The Scheme was implemented to ensure workers received NMW for sleep ins under previous case law rulings but disapplied the usual fine that would accompany an underpayment finding. Our news article explains more about the scheme. 
Government response to Matthew Taylor review

During 2017, Matthew Taylor published a review which, amongst other things, suggested that a higher minimum wage rate should be introduced for zero hours workers. The government stated they would respond to the review by the end of 2017, although this was delayed to the beginning of 2018. The government has now released their response to the Taylor report and have announced they will ask the Low Pay Commission to assess the impact of introducing a higher minimum wage rate for working hours that are not guaranteed under an individual's contracts.

A focus on the use of unpaid internships, and the exploitation of these, was also announced. The government has announced an initiative to tackle the illegal use of unpaid internships and the HMRC will be tasked with carrying out enforcement action in this area. Our news article explains more.