Since April 1999 the Government has set a minimum level of pay for workers in the UK, to help prevent the exploitation of staff and set a level playing field for employers.
The National Minimum Wage is now a legal right for most people working in Britain and employers are not allowed to pay any less than the minimum amount for each particular job.
There are currently three different national minimum levels depending on your age and circumstances although most adult workers will be covered by the law.
You are entitled to ask for a copy of your pay records at any time and if you’ve received lower than the National Minimum Wage can take the employer to court or an Employment Tribunal.
What is the National Minimum Wage?
The National Minimum Wage sets hourly levels of pay which must be provided to workers across the UK. There are three different levels which are regularly reviewed and changed by an independent body called the Low Pay Commission.
The pay levels are different for certain groups of workers but currently the following rates of pay are guaranteed by the National Minimum Wage (from April 2018):
- Workers aged 25 years or over – £7.83 per hour.
- Workers aged 21 to 24 (inclusive)- £7.38
- Workers aged 18 to 20 (inclusive) – £5.90 per hour.
- Under 16 to 17 – £4.20
Who Decides When the Amounts Should Change?
Ultimately the Government decides on the rates of pay set down by the National Minimum Wage and this can change from year to year, normally in October.
However, the rates are based on recommendations made by an independent body called the Low Pay Commission. The body is made up of a panel of experts who carry out research, analyse statistics and meet with employers and workers.
The commission then makes a recommendation to the government based on these findings.
Who Ensures That Companies Comply with the National Minimum Wage?
The National Minimum Wage is policed by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). They respond to complaints from workers and visit a random sample of employers to make sure the National Minimum Wage is in place.
They operate a confidential hotline and have 16 teams of compliance officers across the country, working to ensure legal pay levels are being applied. They also inspect employers’ records and help staff present cases to employment tribunals.
Since the introduction of the National Minimum Wage HMRC has dealt with more than 16,000 complaints and helped identify more than £21 million in pay arrears for workers.
What if you Get Less Than the National Minimum Wage?
For further information on the National Minimum Wage or to find out if it applies to you, call the confidential hotline on 0845 6000 678. You should also call this number if you think you are receiving less than the minimum amount for your category.