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National Living Wage FAQ

1 Apr 2016

Today sees the launch of the new ‘National Living Wage’, which promises a pay rise for one million low paid workers in the UK. What is it? Should I be paid it? What can I do if I’m not? Find out in our quick guide to the new minimum wage.

What is the National Living Wage?

The National Living Wage is basically a new higher rate of the National Minimum Wage for those aged 25 or older. So for any work you do, the law says you should be paid at least £7.20 per hour.

If you’re working full-time (35 hours per week) that works out as £252 per week or £13,104 per year, or £115.20 for a 16 hour week.

I’m not 25 yet. Should I get a pay rise too?

Maybe – the National Minimum Wage still applies for you too, though it isn’t going up until October. How much the law says you should be paid depends on how old you are:

If you’re aged between 21 and 24 you must be paid at least £6.70 per hour (about £12,194 per year working full time)

If you’re 18 to 20, you must get at least £5.30 per hour (£9,646 per year)

If you’re 16 or 17, you must get at least £3.87 per hour (£7,043.40 per year if you’re working full-time)

If you’re under 16 and work, unfortunately there’s no legal minimum wage that you should be paid. However, there are restrictions on what you can be asked to do at work – click here for more information if this applies to you.

If it’s your birthday (many happy returns!) and you’ve now moved into a higher rate, your employer should increase your wages in your next pay packet.

I’m an apprentice, but my employer says I should be paid less than this. Are they right?

If you’re an apprentice, the National Minimum Wage is £3.30 per hour. However, this only applies in certain circumstances – just because you’re described as an apprentice, or on a training scheme doesn’t mean this applies to you.

The apprentice rate above only applies if you’re in a genuine apprenticeship (normally a Modern Apprenticeship), and if you’re aged 19 or over you can only be paid this for one year, before switching to the correct minimum wage for your age.

CABs see quite a few cases where people have been incorrectly paid the apprentice rate, when they should really be getting paid a higher rate. If you think this might be the case for you, pop into your local CAB and they can help you figure out whether you should be getting paid more. 

I’m not being paid that much! How do I get my boss to pay me the right amount?

Despite it being a legal requirement for you to be paid the correct Minimum Wage for your age, sometimes people aren’t – last year CABs in Scotland gave advice on 949 issues related to the National Minimum Wage.

If you seem to be underpaid, you could start with having an informal chat with your employer and ask them why they are paying you what they are. In some cases, they’ve made a genuine mistake, in which case they should pay you what you’re owed.

If they refuse to pay you the National Minimum Wage, you have a range of options for taking further action to make sure you’re getting paid what the law says you should get as a minimum. This could involve raising a grievance, involving HMRC or Acas, or even taking the case to a tribunal, although it should hopefully be settled long before then. You can find some handy advice online about what your options are, or you can make an appointment at your local CAB to get some help. 

My employer says I’m ‘technically self-employed’/I’m paid per task, and they don’t need to pay the minimum wage because of this. Are they right?

Even if you’re paid for each task done (for example if you’re a delivery driver that gets paid per delivery, or a fruit-picker who gets paid depending on how much you pick), you should be paid a fair rate that’s based on the National Minimum Wage. More information about how this works can be found here.

Sometimes your employer might say that you’re actually ‘self-employed’. If this comes as a surprise to you, it might be that your employer is trying to avoid your employment rights. There’s some useful advice available here, but as both these situations can be quite complicated, it’s worth seeking expert advice from a CAB near you, who can help you get to the bottom of what’s going on.

Is this the same as the other Living Wage? That’s been around for ages, hasn’t it?

No it’s not – the existing Living Wage is a voluntary scheme – your employer isn’t required by law to pay it. You can read more about the differences between the two here.

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