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National Minimum Wage


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The National Minimum Wage

Generally the hourly rates set by government are the absolute minimum you should receive.

The National Minimum Wage was introduced in 1999, entitling workers – for the first time ever in Britain – to a guaranteed minimum pay rate. It is part of a package of new rights, such as the right to annual leave, that mark a new direction in employment law after the last two decades of deregulation. It is estimated that over a million people are benefiting from the new rules. The majority of these are young people and women working in the clothing sector, hotel and catering, retail and the care industry.
Does the National Minimum Wage include young workers?

A ‘young worker’ is someone who is above the minimum school leaving age of 16 but under 18. Young workers are entitled to most of the standard employment rights that all workers are entitled to.

But although you may have heard of the ‘minimum wage’, if you are under 18 this doesn’t apply to you; nor do redundancy rights, which don’t start to kick in until you are 20.

The National Minimum Wage applies to all workers over the age of 18, but there are a number of rules, and various employees currently fall through the safety net.
Am I entitled?

The following workers are exempt from the National Minimum Wage: those on certain government training schemes; students and teacher trainees on course-related work-experience; people who live and work as part of a family (eg au pairs); homeless people provided with accommodation in return for work; share fishermen; voluntary workers; prisoners and the genuinely self-employed.

I’m between 18-21. What do I get?

The following rates apply in standard situations: if you are under 18, it is a sad fact that you are currently exempt from any minimum wage agreement.

However, from the age of 18 to 21 the minimum wage you must be paid is £3.60 an hour. This is rising to £3.80 from October 1, 2003.

If you are over 21, then you are entitled by law to £4.20 an hour. Again, this is rising from October 1 2003, when the new rate will be £4.50 an hour.
My boss says apprentices are different?

Slight variations to the rules apply if you are an apprentice. Not only are you exempt if under 18, if you are between the ages of 18 to 26 you are exempt during the first 12 months of your apprenticeship.

If you are over 17, then after a full year’s apprenticeship you will receive the National Minimum Wage, according to the age brackets listed above.
What about Accredited Training?

Again, Accredited Training has slightly different rules (this includes training for NVQ’s and GNVQ’s verified in-house training and those on New Deal for young unemployed). Workers in the first six months of their job, who are receiving 'accredited training' for at least 26 days, are entitled to the 'development rate' for this first six month period only. This rate is £3.60. But then it rises to the full rate of £4.20 (£4.50 from 1 October 2003).
What about agency or home workers?

Agency workers and home workers qualify for the full National Minimum Wage. Further, part-time workers, temporary workers, casual workers, homeworkers and piece workers as well as full-time permanent employees are all entitled to the Minimum Wage.

If you are already working as an employee of a company your employer cannot force you to become self-employed in order to reduce his wage bill. It follows that the law also prevents employers from agreeing with staff – either orally or in writing – to pay them less than the minimum wage.

The rules are complicated so if you have any questions ask your union rep. They will have up-to-date information and are there to help you.