"I'm 19 and work at a swish hair salon. I get £3 an hour but I'm training so it makes up for the pay."
Joe's employers are breaking the law because they are paying him less than the minimum wage.
So, how much is the minimum wage?
- Under 18 year olds:............£3.68 per hour. (But this might not apply to 16-17 year olds who are learning a craft or a skill on the job).
- 20 year olds:............£4.98 per hour
- 21 or older:....................£6.08 per hour. (If you are receiving accredited training and have been in the post for less than 6 months, you can be paid less, but it must be at least £4.92 per hour. Accredited training means it is a government-approved vocational course, like an NVQ. You can find out from your training provider whether your course is accredited).
- Apprentices aged under 19 years ….. £2.60 per hour
- Apprentices aged 19 years or more but in first year of apprenticeship £2.60 per hour
- Apprentices aged 19 years or more in second or subsequent years £6.08 per hour
16-17 year olds Watch Out!
Employers may say that they are giving you training as a way round paying you the minimum wage - if you are not genuinely learning a skill or craft, you should be paid the minimum wage.
If you are not sure, call the government’s Pay and Work Rights Helpline on 0800 917 2368.
Does it apply to all workers?
The minimum wage applies to almost all workers, it makes no difference if you are an employee or not, if you are full-time or part-time or if you are only taken on casually. It also applies if you work from home or are paid by commission.
I am not sure if I am being underpaid, how do I find out?
You can call the government’s Pay and Work Rights Help line on 0800 917 2368. You don't have to give your name or the name of your employer to get advice from them. Alternatively you could contact your local advice centre or trade union, if you have one.
What if I am not being paid the minimum wage?
Your employer is breaking the law. See How to tackle a problem at work in the menu on the right.
Other Pay Problems
I am getting more than the minimum wage, but it's still not enough, what can I do?
If you are being paid less than other people at your work who are doing similar jobs you might be a victim of discrimination - have a look at the section on Discrimination in the menu on the right. But if others are paid more because they are genuinely more qualified or experienced, that's fair enough.
If your employer pays less than other employers for your type of work, you could try talking to your boss and explain to him or her that they pay less than the going rate. They might agree to give you a pay rise. If not, you might be wise to find a more generous employer.
My employer wants to pay me cash in hand. Is it a good idea?
It may sound good, you don't have to bother with all those boring payslips and you get a fatter pay packet. But for one thing it is often illegal because it is a way round paying tax and national insurance; also you lose out on a lot of the rights set out in this guide because your employment contract is not valid.
My employer doesn't give me wage slips
If you are an employee, you have a right to get payslips from your employer showing how your pay has been calculated and a break down of all deductions. Make sure you are getting these and keep them safe. They may be needed if there is a problem in future and they are a useful record of how much tax you have paid. Payslips also provide proof of your income - you may need evidence of your earnings for things like getting a mortgage or renting a flat.