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Wage rates - What is your minimum entitlement ?

In the UK we have a National Minimum Wage and full details of these and other useful information can be found on the government website at www.direct.gov.uk.

There are different levels of minimum wage, depending on your age and whether you are an apprentice.

The current rates are:

  • £5.93 - the main rate for workers aged 21 and over
  • £4.92 - the 18-20 rate
  • £3.64 - the 16-17 rate for workers above school leaving age but under 18
  • £2.50 - the apprentice rate, for apprentices under 19 or 19 or over and in the first year of their apprenticeship


The age at which you become entitled to the main rate was reduced from 22 to 21 on 1 October 2010.  The apprentice rate was introduced on the same date.

If you are of compulsory school age you are not entitled to the NMW and some of your other employment rights are also different.

Rates from 1 October 2011

The Low Pay Commission reviews the NMW each year and from 1 October 2011 these will be:

  • the main rate for workers aged 21 and over will increase to £6.08
  • the 18-20 rate will increase to £4.98
  • the 16-17 rate for workers above school leaving age but under 18 will increase to £3.68
  • the apprentice rate, for apprentices under 19 or 19 or over and in the first year of their apprenticeship will increase to £2.60

In the UK most workers over school leaving age are legally entitled to be paid at least the NMW and all employers have to pay it to you if you are entitled to it. It makes no difference:

  • if you are paid weekly or monthly by cheque, in cash or any other way
  • if you work full time, part time or any other working pattern
  • at what location you work
  • what size your employer is
  • where  in the UK you work

Even if you sign a contract agreeing to be paid at a lower rate you are still entitled to the NMW regardless of whether you sign of your own free will or because your employer persuades or makes you. The contract will have no legal effect and you must still be paid the proper rate.

If you are not sure if you should be paid at least the NMW read the 'Workers entitled to the National Minimum Wage' and 'Who is not entitled to the National Minimum Wage' pages.

We hope that this will ensure many of you entering the job market for the first time can do so armed with the knowledge to  ensure you achieve at least the national Minimum Wage.

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