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National Minimum Wage and penalties

With a few exceptions, all workers in the UK aged 16 or over are legally entitled to be paid a minimum amount per hour, regardless of the kind of work they do or the size and type of company.

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Note: The rate is reviewed every year, and any increases take place in October.

National Minimum Wage for 2014/15

Rates from October 2014 are:

  • Aged 21 and over – £6.50 per hour to be increased to £6.70 on the 1st October 2015
  • Aged 18 to 20 – £5.13 per hour to be increased to £5.30 on the 1st October 2015
  • Aged 16 to 17 – £3.79 per hour to be increased to £3.87 on the 1st October 2015
  • Apprenticeship rate – £2.73 per hour to be increased to £3.30 on the 1st October 2015

Who can get the National Minimum Wage?

Almost everyone who works in the UK is legally entitled to be paid the National Minimum Wage. This is the case even if an employer asks a worker to sign an employment contract at a lower rate of pay. It isn't necessary to be in full-time employment, or to work at an employer's premises.

For example, a worker is entitled to receive the national minimum wage if they are:

  • employed by an agency
  • a homeworker
  • a part-time worker
  • a casual worker
  • a pieceworker
  • a worker on a short-term contract.

However, they are not entitled to receive the national minimum wage if they are:

  • a worker under school leaving age (currently 16 but rising to 18 for those born on or after 1 September 1997)
  • genuinely self-employed
  • some apprentices
  • an au pair in the armed services a voluntary worker.

Are there penalties for not paying the minimum wage?

Yes. From 7 March 2014, employers who do not pay their workers the national minimum wage face an increased penalty of up to £20,000 – a four-fold increase on the previous £5,000 maximum fine. *update: As of May 2015 a maximum fine of £20,000 penalty for underpaying the national minimum wage, on a per worker basis rather than per notice came into force on the 26th May 2015.  

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