Minimum Wage for Under 18s – A Guide to Pay Entitlements

National Minimum wage rates are there to ensure everyone is treated consistently. Rules are different depending on the worker’s age and if they pay National Insurance or not. Our guide gives an easy to understand overview of rules on minimum wage under the age of 18.

Children as young as 13 years old are of legal age to work in the uk on a part-time basis. It’s important everyone understands their pay entitlements right up to adulthood. Any misunderstandings or confusion should be addressed before a job is accepted.

Which Workers Under the Age of 18 Are Entitled to Minimum Wage?

UK employment laws protect any workers under the age of 18 to ensure they are being treated fairly. Anyone who is 16 and 17 years of age is entitled to minimum wage. The pay rate for this age group increased to £4.81 in April 2022.

Young workers should also be put through payroll in this age bracket even if they are not earning enough to be liable for deductions.

School Leavers

To be classed as a young worker, individuals must be school leaving age. This is when they are entitled to the National Minimum Wage.

Anyone under 16 and out of education will not receive the national minimum or have to pay National Insurance. As such, they do not need to be put through the payroll.

Minimum Wage For Workers Aged 16 & Over

Providing you have turned 16 by the end of the summer term you leave school, then you will be classed as a young worker. Young workers have the right to minimum wage at a rate of £4.81 (Correct as at April 2022). 

The rules around young workers, and when they are entitled to minimum wage rates can vary depending on location:-


  • Providing you will be 16 by the end of the summer term, you can leave school on the last Friday in June.
  • You must then continue some form of education or an apprenticeship.


  • You can leave school after the 31st of May if you turn 16 years old between 1st March and 30th September of that year.
  • If you do not turn 16 until after September 30th then you remain at school up until the Christmas holidays of that year.


  • The same rules as England apply where you can leave on the last Friday in June as long as you will be 16 by the end of the summer holidays.

Northern Ireland

  • You can leave school after the 30th June as long as you turn 16 during the school year.

As well as being entitled to a lower minimum wage rate, workers aged 16 and 17 have different rules on how many hours they can work.

What is the Minimum Wage at Age 16?

The minimum wage for 16 and 17 year olds was increased in April 2022 to £4.81 per hour.

Once young workers reach the age of 18, they will be entitled to a pay increase. 18 to 20 year olds are entitled to a minimum wage of £6.83 per hour.

Why Do Young Workers Have Lower Minimum Wages?

If you’re a young worker, it can be hard to understand why your time and hard work has less value than your older colleagues.

As a school leaver aged 16, you face working several years before being entitled to the full living wage. You start your career earning just over 49% less than a 23 year old with a similar role.

Protecting Employment

A government blog which is regularly updated on the work of the Low Pay Commission says

“The main reason for setting a lower wage floor for younger workers is to protect employment.” – Why do Young People Have Minimum Lower Wages?

The policy is based on evidence which shows young workers are at greater risk of unemployment when there’s a level playing field on wage levels. That means they’re likely to be overlooked in favour of older workers. Reasons for this include lack of experience, and lack of bargaining power when negotiating wages.

Avoiding Long Term Wage Loss

People who are long term unemployed at a young age can suffer “Wage Scar” in the form of lower than average earnings for up to 20 years.

A study from Bristol University calculated that workers who had been unemployer during their youth would suffer “a scar from early unemployment in the magnitude of
12% to 15% at age 42″.

Apprentice Wage Rates

Apprentice wage rates can vary depending on your age and what year of your apprenticeship you are in. Young people should always refer to their contracts for any monetary queries.

Minimum Wage Entitlements for Apprentices

  • 16 to 18: £4.81 is the minimum wage per hour.
  • 19 and over (first year): £4.81 is the minimum wage per hour.
  • 19 and over (completed first year): National Minimum wage or National Living Wage. Rate dependent on age.

Minimum Wage for Under 16s

Anyone classed as school age is not entitled to the National Minimum Wage. What they are paid is at the discretion of the employer. This means there is no minimum wage entitlement for workers under 16.

When it comes to wages for the under 16s, there are no official guidelines. It is very much in the hands of the employer to set the rate. It is important that anyone under 16 finds out the rate of pay and are happy with this before they accept.

There are, however, rules on working hours for workers aged 13-15. During the term time children are permitted to work up to a maximum of 12 hours per week.

Added to this, they can only work up to 2 hours on a school day and Sundays. 5 hours is permitted on a Saturday for 13 and 14 year olds, 8 hours for 15 to 16 year olds.

Why Is There No Minimum Wage for Under 16’s?

Under 16s are still classed as school aged children. This means they are not protected under the same laws as young workers.

Often the type of job someone of school age does will not always be paid by the hour due to the nature of the work. Jobs such as paper rounds and dog walking are often paid in a set amount per week and not based on an hourly rate.

Children under 16 do not pay National Insurance so do not usually need to be added to the payroll. The only time an employer would add them is if their total income was over the Personal Allowance.

Further Reading

You can find more information on national minimum wage entitlements for under 18 at these websites.

  • UK GOV’s Child Employment page gives information on pay entitlements for young workers.
  • ACAS have good general information about minimum wage rights. If you feel you aren’t getting the right entitlements, contact them for advice.


Can 16 year olds get paid more than the minimum wage?

16 year olds can get paid more than the minimum wage and it will be at the discretion of the employer to set this out within a written contract. The law states they must receive a minimum of £4.81 per hour but there aren’t any rules about a maximum amount.

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