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HMRC internal manual

National Minimum Wage Manual

History of National Minimum Wage and Overview of Legislation: The National Minimum Wage Act 1998

Relevant legislation

The legislation that applies to this page is as follows:

  • National Minimum Wage Act 1998


The National Minimum Wage Act 1998 sets out the basic legal framework for the national minimum wage in the United Kingdom and amends agricultural workers’ legislation (NMWM01050). It is a framework Act that provides for the detailed provision of its operation in Regulations.

The Act provides the statutory authority to make regulations and sets out the statutory basis for the Low Pay Commission (NMWM02010). A limited number of its provisions came into force on 31 July 1998 (Royal Assent) and on 1 November 1998, but the majority came into effect on 1 April 1999. Since then it has had a number of amendments and includes sections about:

  • The contractual right to be paid the minimum wage
  • Definitions of employee, contract of employment, worker, employer and employment
  • Officers appointed under the Act and powers of officers
  • Establishment of the Low Pay Commission and referrals to it
  • The right not to suffer a detriment, nor to be dismissed, for reasons relating to the national minimum wage and the conciliation processes if this should happen
  • Employers’ record keeping and employees’ rights of access to those records
  • Information provisions, including information obtained by agricultural wages officers
  • Enforcement action and a worker’s right to be paid arrears
  • Appeals against notices of underpayment, including appeals against penalties
  • Criminal offences for non compliance and related matters
  • Tribunal hearings, including reversal of the burden of proof
  • Some special classes of workers
  • A requirement for the Act and Regulations to be widely publicised.
  • Relationship of the Act and agricultural wages legislation
  • Remuneration of agricultural workers.

The NMW (Offshore Employment) Order 1999 came into force on 1 May 1999 and extended the provisions of the Act to those who work, or ordinarily work, in offshore employment.

The Act is supported by Regulations (NMWM01040).