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National Minimum Wage Act 1998

National Minimum Wage Act 1998
Long title An Act to make provision for and in connection with a national minimum wage; to provide for the amendment of certain enactments relating to the remuneration of persons employed in agriculture; and for connected purposes.
Citation 1998
Territorial extent England and Wales; Scotland; Northern Ireland
Royal Assent 1998
Status: Current legislation
Text of statute as originally enacted
Revised text of statute as amended
This article is about an Act of Parliament in the United Kingdom. For other uses, see NMWA.

The National Minimum Wage Act 1998 creates a minimum wage across the United Kingdom, currently £6.70 per hour for workers aged 21+, £5.30 per hour for workers aged 18–20.[1] It was a flagship policy of the Labour Party in the UK during its 1997 election campaign and is still pronounced today in Labour Party circulars as an outstanding gain for ‘at least 1.5 million people’. The national minimum wage (NMW) took effect on 1 April 1999.


  • Background 1
  • Overview 2
  • Law 3
    • Enforcement 3.1
    • Case law 3.2
  • Statistics 4
  • Perspectives 5
  • Current and past rates 6
  • See also 7
  • Notes 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10


No national minimum wage existed prior to 1998, although there were a variety of systems of wage controls focused on specific industries under the Trade Boards Act 1909.

Part of the reason for Labour's minimum wage policy was the decline of trade union membership over recent decades (weakening employees' bargaining power), as well as a recognition that the employees most vulnerable to low pay (especially in service industries) were rarely unionised in the first place. Labour had returned to government in 1997 after 18 years in opposition, and a minimum wage had been a party policy as long ago as 1986 under the leadership of Neil Kinnock.[2]

The implementation of a minimum wage was opposed by the Conservative Party and supported by the Liberal Democrats.[3]


The NMW rates are reviewed each year by the Low Pay Commission, which makes recommendations for change to the Government.

The following rates apply as of 1 October 2015:[4]

  • £6.70 per hour for adult workers (21+)
  • £5.30 per hour for 18-to-20-year-olds
  • £3.87 per hour for under-18s who have finished compulsory education
  • £3.30 per hour for apprentices under 19 years old or 19 or over and in the first year of their apprenticeship
  • Those who have not yet finished compulsory education have no entitlement to NMW. The age when a person finishes compulsory education is either 15 or 16, depending on where their birthday falls in the school year.

From 1 April 2016, a further rate known as the "National Living Wage" ("NLW") will be brought into force. The NLW will apply to those aged 25 or over and will be at the rate of £7.20 per hour.[5]


The UK's National Minimum Wage up to October 2015.
'Adult rate' is for employees aged 21 and over from 2010, and 22 and over prior to then.
'Development rate' is for employees aged 18-20 from 2010, and 18-21 prior to then.
'16-17 year olds rate' was introduced in 2004, prior to that there was no minimum wage at this age.
'Apprentice rate' was introduced in 2010.

The National Minimum Wage Act 1998 applies to workers (section 1(2)), that is, anyone who has a contract to do work personally, other than for a customer or a client (section 54(3)). Those working through agencies are included (section 34), so that the agencies' charges must not reduce a worker's basic entitlement. Home-workers are also included, and the Secretary of State can make order for other inclusions. The Secretary of State can also make exclusions, as has been done for au pairs and family members in a family business. Share fishermen paid by a share of profits are excluded, as are unpaid volunteers and prisoners (sections 43-45).

The hours that are used in a national minimum wage calculation are dependent upon work type as defined within the National Minimum Wage Regulations 1999. The different work types are time work, salaried hours work, output work and unmeasured work. Hours to be paid for are those worked in the "pay reference period", but where pay is not contractually referable to hours, such as pay by output, then the time actually worked must be ascertained. The principle is that the rate of pay for hours worked should not fall below the minimum. Periods when the worker is on industrial action, travelling to and from work and absent are excluded. A worker who is required to be awake and available for work must receive the minimum rate. This does not prevent use of "zero hour contracts", where the worker is guaranteed no hours and is under no obligation to work.


The NMW is enforceable by HMRC (section 14), or by the worker making a contractual claim or through a "wrongful deduction" claim under Part II of the Employment Rights Act 1996. Section 18 provides for compensation. Employers must not subject their workers to dismissal or any other detriment (section 25 and section 23).

In October 2013 new rules to "name and shame" employers paying under the minimum wage were established, so that the names of most employers issued with a Notice of Underpayment are published.[6] In 2014 the names of 25 employers were released by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.[7]

Case law


Comparisons of the changes in the National Minimum Wage to average earnings and inflation. The minimum wage has grown well ahead of both.

The Office for National Statistics produces information about the lower end of the earnings distribution and estimates for the number of jobs paid below the national minimum wage.[8] The figures are based on data from the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings.


The policy was opposed by the Conservative party at the time of implementation, who argued that it would create extra costs for businesses and would cause unemployment. In 1996, The Conservative party's current leader, David Cameron, standing as a prospective member of parliament for Stafford, had said that the minimum wage "would send unemployment straight back up". [9] However, in 2005 Cameron stated that "I think the minimum wage has been a success, yes. It turned out much better than many people expected, including the CBI."[10] It is now Conservative Party policy to support the minimum wage.[11]

The current Mayor of London Boris Johnson, a Conservative, has supported the London living wage since coming to office, ensuring that all City Hall employees and subcontracted workers earn at least £7.60 an hour and promoting the wage to employers across the city. In May 2009 his Greater London Authority Economics unit raised the London Living Wage for City Hall employees to its current rate of £7.60, £1.80 more than the then minimum wage of £5.80.[12]

To put the pay in an annual perspective, an adult over the age of 22 working at the minimum wage for 7.5 hours a day, 5 days a week, will make £942.50/month and £11,310/year Gross Income. After PAYE this becomes £810.63/month or £9,727.55/year (2009/2010)[13][14][15] Full-time workers are also entitled to a minimum of 5.6 weeks paid holiday per year from 1 April 2009, with pro-rata equivalent for part-time workers. This includes public holidays.[16]

Conservative MP Dominic Raab has called for the National Minimum Wage to be scrapped for 16-21 year olds in order to boost youth employment,[17] though doubts were raised as to whether or not this would be an effective measure.[18]

The TUC has argued for the introduction of "industrial pay bodies", though critics question the practicality and efficacy of such a measure. Similar arguments have been made for regional rates, so that the minimum wage is different in different parts of the UK.

The 2015 planned rise in the minimum wage could hit care services for elderley people, disabled people and other vulnerable people unless the government provides extra funding to Local Authorities who pay for the services.[19]

Current and past rates

Source unless otherwise specified: Low Pay Commission[20]
From Age 25+ Age 21-24 Age 18-20 Age 16-17 Apprentice
1 Apr 2016[21] £7.20 £6.70 £5.30 £3.87 £3.30
From Age 21+ Age 18-20 Age 16-17 Apprentice
1 Oct 2015 £6.70 £5.30 £3.87 £3.30
1 Oct 2014 £6.50 £5.13 £3.79 £2.73
1 Oct 2013 £6.31 £5.03 £3.72 £2.68
1 Oct 2012 £6.19 £4.98 £3.68 £2.65
1 Oct 2011 £6.08 £4.98 £3.68 £2.60
1 Oct 2010 £5.93 £4.92 £3.64 £2.50
From Age 22+ Age 18-21 Age 16-17
1 Oct 2009 £5.80 £4.83 £3.57
1 Oct 2008 £5.73 £4.70 £3.53
1 Oct 2007 £5.52 £4.60 £3.53
1 Oct 2006 £5.35 £4.45 £3.40
1 Oct 2005 £5.05 £4.25 £3.00
1 Oct 2004 £4.85 £4.10 £3.00
1 Oct 2003 £4.50 £3.80 £3.00
1 Oct 2002 £4.20 £3.50
1 Oct 2001 £4.10 £3.50
1 Oct 2000 £3.70 £3.20
1 Apr 1999 £3.60 £3.00

See also


  1. ^ National Minimum Wage rates
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ The Chronicle (Stafford), February 21 1996
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ [2]
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^ BBC (London) 27 July 2015 Living Wage 'could harm home care sector'
  20. ^ Low Pay Commission. Home page. Retrieved on 1 October 2014.
  21. ^ BBC News


  • B Simpson, ‘A Milestone in the Legal Regulation of Pay’ (1999) 28 ILJ 1, 17-18
  • B Simpson, ‘The National Minimum Wage Five Years On’ (2004) 33 ILJ 22

External links

  • Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs: National Minimum Wage
  • National Minimum Wage and Small Business
  • The London minimum wage debate
  • London should have £6.50 minimum wage
  • Current Rate Of National Minimum Wage NMW
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