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HMRC internal manual

National Minimum Wage Manual

National minimum wage rates: rates of national minimum wage

Relevant legislation

The legislation that applies to this page is as follows:

* National Minimum Wage Act 1998, sections 1(3), 3, 4, 5(2)(a) & 51(1)
* National Minimum Wage Regulations 2015, regulation 4

The national minimum wage provides a legally binding minimum hourly rate of pay for most workers over compulsory school age (NMWM03070). The rate is always expressed as an hourly rate and is set by the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation & Skills (NMWM02020) in Regulations, normally after receiving recommendations from the Low Pay Commission (NMWW02010). When making its recommendations the Low Pay Commission tries to balance the cost of improving pay for low paid workers against the risk of lost jobs and more expensive services.

Employers are legally responsible for determining and paying at least the correct rate, but they can pay more. There are currently five national minimum wage rates as follows:

  • Main rate for workers aged 25 and over (the national living wage rate) (NMWM03020)
  • The 21 - 24 year old rate (NMWM03030)
  • The 18 - 20 year old rate (NMWM03050)
  • The under 18 (NMWM03060) (introduced for pay reference periods starting on or after 1 October 2004)
  • The apprentice rate (NMWM03065) (introduced for pay reference periods starting on or after 1 October 2010)

For pay reference periods starting after 1 April 1999 and before 1 October 2006, there was also an accredited training rate (NMWM03030). This was payable for up to six months for workers aged 22 and over who started a new job with a new employer and who were undertaking accredited training. This rate was abolished for pay reference periods starting on or after 1 October 2006.

The rate that applies to each worker depends on their age at the start of a pay reference period. When a worker becomes age 18, 21, or 25 their rate will increase from the pay reference period on or after their birthday (NMWM03110). Because national minimum wage rates are based on a worker’s age, the employer must ensure they have accurate information about their workers’ ages at the start of each pay reference period.

Agricultural workers must also be paid at least national minimum wage rates. However, in some circumstances, they must be paid more if this is stipulated by the agricultural wages legislation (NMWM03100).