National minimum wage – a quick guide to the rates and rules 

The government sets a national minimum wage and a national living wage to guarantee that workers get a minimum standard of pay.

It is a legal requirement for all businesses regardless of size and the rates change every year on 1 April.

We encourage you to read this quick guide which includes the rates for different age groups and apprentices to help you make sure you’re complying with the rules.

 

National living wage vs minimum wage – what is the difference? 

Introduced in April 2016, the government introduced the national living wage which was a minimum rate of pay for workers who were at least 25 years old. In April 2021 the threshold was lowered to age 23 and from 1 April 2024, it will also apply to 21 and 22 year olds.

The minimum wage applies to workers from age 16. The hourly rate for the minimum wage depends on your age and whether you’re an apprentice.

Simply though, you must be at least:

  • school leaving age to get the National Minimum Wage
  • aged 23 to get the National Living Wage until 1 April 2024
  • aged 21 to get the National Living Wage after 1 April 2024

 

What are the current rates and what are they from 1 April 2024? 

The rates change on 1 April each year. Since April 2023, the rates are:

23 and over

21 and 22

18 to 20

Under 18

Apprentice

Current rate

£10.42

£10.18

£7.49

£5.28

£5.28

 

From 1 April 2024 the rates will be:

21 and over

18 to 20

Under 18

Apprentice

From 1 April 2024

£11.44

£8.60

£6.40

£6.40

 

What about apprentices? 

Apprentices are entitled to the apprentice rate if they’re either:

  • aged under 19
  • aged 19 or over and in the first year of their apprenticeship

Apprentices are entitled to the minimum wage for their age if they are both:

  • aged 19 or over
  • have completed the first year of their apprenticeship

 

Who else is entitled to the minimum wage? 

Workers who fall into the categories below are also entitled to the correct minimum wage if they’re:

  • part-time
  • casual labourers, for example someone hired for one day
  • agency workers
  • workers and homeworkers paid by the number of items they make
  • apprentices
  • trainees, workers on probation
  • disabled workers
  • agricultural workers
  • foreign workers
  • seafarers
  • offshore workers

 

Who is not entitled to the minimum wage? 

The following types of workers are not entitled to the National Minimum Wage or National Living Wage:

  • self-employed people running their own business
  • company directors
  • people who are volunteers or voluntary workers
  • workers on a government employment programme, such as the Work Programme
  • members of the armed forces
  • family members of the employer living in the employer’s home
  • non-family members living in the employer’s home who share in the work and leisure activities, are treated as one of the family and are not charged for meals or accommodation, for example au pairs
  • workers younger than school leaving age (usually 16)
  • higher and further education students on work experience or a work placement up to one year
  • people shadowing others at work
  • workers on government pre-apprenticeships schemes
  • people on the following European Union (EU) programmes: Leonardo da Vinci, Erasmus+, Comenius
  • people working on a Jobcentre Plus Work trial for up to 6 weeks
  • share fishermen
  • prisoners
  • people living and working in a religious community

This article is for general guidance only. It provides an outline, and may not include points which are important to your situation. You should not depend on this blog without taking advice based on the full facts of your case. The information given was correct at the time of publication.

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