UK National Minimum Wage Rate Changes come into effect in October 2012

The UK National Minimum Wage (NMW) is a minimum amount per hour that most workers in the UK are entitled to be paid.

Changes to the UK National Minimum pay rates will come into effect on 1st October 2012 as follows:

  • £6.19 – the main rate for workers aged 21 and over 
  • £4.98 – the 18-20 rate
  • £3.68 – the 16-17 rate for workers above school leaving age but under 18
  • £2.65 – the apprentice rate, for apprentices under 19 or 19 or over and in the first year of their apprenticeship

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

  • if they are paid weekly or monthly, by cheque, in cash or in another way
  • if they work full time, part time or any other working pattern
  • if they work at your employer’s own premises or elsewhere
  • what size the employer is
  • where employees work in the UK

Employees are entitled to the NMW even if they sign a contract agreeing to be paid at a lower rate. This is regardless of whether they sign of their own free will or because the employer persuades or makes them do so. The contract will have no legal effect and the employee must still be paid the proper rate.

If you are not sure if your employees 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.

Specific types of worker who are entitled to the NMW

Sometimes there is confusion around whether particular types of workers are entitled to the NMW. If you are one of the following types of worker you should receive the NMW:

Agency workers

If you are an agency worker you are entitled to receive the NMW. Whoever pays you, which is usually the agency rather than whoever you are sent to work for, is regarded as your employer for NMW purposes.


Apprentices are entitled to the NMW – either the apprentice rate or one of the higher rates. Which one you are entitled to will depend on your age and whether you are still in the first year of your apprenticeship. 

Apprentices for NMW purposes are either workers who have contracts of apprenticeship or workers taking part in training schemes who are treated as if they have a contract of apprenticeship. The schemes are:

  • in England – Apprenticeships or Advanced Apprenticeships
  • in Scotland – Modern Apprenticeships
  • in Northern Ireland – ApprenticeshipsNI or Modern Apprenticeships
  • in Wales – Foundation Apprenticeships, Modern Apprenticeships, Foundation Modern Apprenticeships or Apprenticeships

Trainees or workers on a period of probation

If you are training for a job or you are on probation then you are still entitled to the NMW. There are exemptions for some apprentices and workers on training courses.

Government employment schemes

People taking part in some government employment schemes, such as the New Deal, may be entitled to the NMW. If you are taking part in another government scheme you may get benefits instead of the minimum wage. Check with the organisers whether you will get the NMW if you are going to take part in a New Deal or other government scheme.

Work experience and internships

Work experience can be paid or unpaid, depending on the arrangements you have with your employer.

Piece workers

If you are paid by the number of items you produce or tasks you perform you must either be paid at least the NMW for every hour you work or what is called a ‘fair’ piece rate for each piece produced or task performed. There are special rules for working this out.

Commission workers

If you are paid completely or partly by results, for example sales made or deals completed, you are entitled to be paid the NMW.


If you work at home you are entitled to the NMW, unless you are running your own business.

Workers with a disability

If you are disabled you are entitled to receive the NMW, unless you undertake work-related activities for purely therapeutic reasons, with no contractual obligation to work or right to any payment or other reward.

Agricultural workers

Agricultural workers covered by agricultural wages’ laws are entitled to the Agricultural Minimum Wage rather than the NMW. No agricultural worker can be paid less than the NMW. Some agricultural workers must be paid more than the NMW because there is a higher Agricultural Minimum Wage rate.

Foreign workers

If you are a worker from outside the UK and you are legally working in the UK you are entitled to the NMW. It doesn’t matter how long or short a time you stay here or whether your employer is based in the UK or somewhere else.


If you are a seafarer and under your contract you are working or usually work in the UK (which includes its internal waters, meaning estuaries and the sea between the UK mainland and many islands) you are entitled to the NMW. This applies no matter where your ship is registered.

There are special rules for seafarers working on UK-registered ships which mean you are entitled to the NMW, wherever in the world your ship may be, unless you work completely outside the UK or you don’t usually live in the UK.

Offshore workers

If you are working or usually work in UK territorial waters or in the UK or the foreign sector of the continental shelf (for instance on oil rigs) you are entitled to the NMW. This doesn’t apply to workers on ships which are in course of navigation or are dredging or fishing.

European Social Fund programmes

If you are taking part in a programme financially supported by the European Social Fund and you have an employment contract with your employer you are entitled to the NMW. This doesn’t apply if you are on a work trial with a possible future employer which lasts no more than six weeks.

Working abroad

If you usually work in the UK but are temporarily working outside the UK, you are entitled to the NMW.

If you would like help with processing the payroll to your employees in the UK, please contact our Payroll Team for a no-obligation quote today.