HMRC internal manual

National Minimum Wage Manual

NMWM06200 - Specific occupations & special groups: offshore workers

Relevant legislation

The legislation that applies to this page is as follows:

  • National Minimum Wage Act 1998, section 42 and National Minimum Wage (Offshore Employment) Order 1999 (SI1128)

This page describes the rules relating to offshore workers before 1 October 2020. For information on the rules from 1 October 2020 see NMWM06205.

Offshore workers are covered by the NMW (Offshore Employment) Order 1999, which came into force on 1st May 1999. This was made under the power in section 42 of the National Minimum Wage Act 1998 and extends the operation of the Act to workers who work or ordinarily work:

  • in the territorial waters of the United Kingdom, or
  • in connection with the exploration of the sea bed or its subsoil or exploiting the natural resources in

    • the United Kingdom sector of the continental shelf, or
    • a foreign sector of the continental shelf of a cross-boundary petroleum field.

The Order can apply to activities outside the United Kingdom and regardless of whether the worker is a United Kingdom national or resident. It also applies to companies and businesses, regardless of whether or not they are incorporated under United Kingdom legislation.

Offshore workers include workers on offshore installations, such as oil rigs and platforms. These installations are not ships. They do not typically move around and are not used in navigation. Regardless of their duties, workers on offshore installations are not mariners (NMWM06180). Workers on dredgers can also be offshore workers, but only where the dredger is excavating the sea bed or its subsoil in the course of pipe laying.

The NMW (Offshore Employment) Order 1999 does not apply to workers on ships who are mariners (NMWM06180) or share fishermen (NMWM06230). Some vessels, such as accommodation barges, light ships, weather ships, semi-submersible oil-rigs and similar vessels may be regarded as ships depending on the use made of them. This use based approach was followed by the Court of Appeal in Perks v Clark (2001) which held that a semi-submersible drilling rig could be considered as a ship in certain circumstances.

A simplified definition of the “continental shelf” is the submerged sea bed and its subsoil extending 200 nautical miles underwater from the coast or to the point it joins the ocean floor (whichever is the greater).

In national minimum wage legislation the following terms are defined as:

  • “United Kingdom sector of the continental shelf” means the area designated under section 1(7) of the Continental Shelf Act 1964,
  • “foreign sector of the continental shelf” means an area outside the territorial waters of any state, within which rights with respect to the sea-bed and subsoil and their natural resources are exercisable by a state other than the United Kingdom,
  • “petroleum field” means a geological structure identified as an oil or gas field by the Order in Council concerned,
  • “cross-boundary petroleum field” means a petroleum field that extends across the boundary between the United Kingdom sector of the continental shelf and a foreign sector of the continental shelf.