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Minimum Wage 2021

A Guide to the National Minimum Wage in the UK

Leigh Gillatt  •  Careers Advice

Minimum Wage 2021


The National Minimum Wage (NMW) is the minimum wage per hour a worker is entitled to in the United Kingdom, and is applicable to all jobs in the UK. These rates are reviewed annually by the government and are advised by an independent body called the Low Pay Commission (LPC).

Companies that don't adhere to the rates set by government are considered to be committing a criminal offence.

Is minimum wage available to everyone?

The rate varies depending on your age and whether you’re an apprentice.

Most workers who are 23 or older (previously 25 and over) must be paid at least the National Living Wage (NLW), which is the highest rate of the National Minimum Wage.

In addition to full-time employees, any workers who fit in the following categories are entitled to the minimum wage in the UK:

  • Part-time
  • Casual
  • Agency
  • Apprenticeship (different wage applies)
  • Trainee
  • Agricultural
  • Seafarer
  • Offshore
  • Disabled

However, National Minimum Wage is not available for anyone working in a self-employed capacity, company directors, voluntary workers, members of the armed forces or those on work placements.

For a full list of those able to claim, consult the gov.uk website for further details

National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage Rates for 2021/22 (from April)

Age Minimum hourly rate 2021-22
23 and over £8.91
21 to 22 £8.36
18 to 20 £6.56
Under 18 £4.62
Apprentice £4.30

Please keep in mind that these figures although correct at time of publishing, are intended for guideline purposes only. The actual amount currently changes every year (usually around April/October time), so it’s always worth keeping up-to-date to ensure you don’t get underpaid by an employer.

Am I entitled to the National Minimum Wage as an Apprentice?

Apprentices are entitled to the apprentice rate of the National Minimum Wage if they are either, Under 19 or 19 and over, but in their first year of the apprenticeship. Apprentices over 19 who have completed their first year are entitled to the National Minimum Wage at a rate for their corresponding age.

My employer provides accommodation, how does this affect the min wage?

If your employer provides accommodation, they can take the value of this into account when calculating the National Minimum Wage or National Living Wage.

No other payroll related benefit (such as childcare vouchers, meals, or a car) counts towards the National Minimum Wage or National Living Wage.

Find out more about accommodation and the National Minimum Wage on GOV.UK

What is the Real Living Wage?

The Real Living Wage is set by the Living Wage Foundation . There is a UK rate and a rate applicable to London only.

According to the Living Wage Foundation website the current UK Real Living Wage is £9.50 an hour and the London Living Wage is £10.85 an hour.

The Real Living Wage is based on the cost of living. The rates are calculated annually by the Resolution Foundation and overseen by the Living Wage Commission, based on the best available evidence about living standards in London and the UK.

Its important to know that Employers do not have to pay the Real Living Wage, only a few UK companies choose to do so.

What to do if you’re paid less than the UK minimum wage

While most companies abide by the UK’s minimum wage legislation, some still attempt to pay less than the amount required. The government reported on the 6th July 2018 that 239 employers failed to pay the UK minimum wage , underpaying 22,400 UK workers by a total of £1.44m!

If you think you’re being paid below the correct rate, you should first check your contract of employement and speak in person to your employer. If this doesn’t resolve the situation, you should request payment records in writing from your company. You can contact the ACAS helpline for free, confidential advice to help you solve your payment dispute.

You can also make a complaint to HMRC about your employer.

HMRC can fine your employer if after investigation they are deemed to have not been following UK minimum wage regulations.

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