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National minimum wage - the basics

When did the national minimum wage (NMW) come into force?

NMW came into force for pay reference periods starting on or after 1 April 1999.

Who is covered by the NMW?

Most workers who are over compulsory school age and are working legally under a contract of employment or other form of worker's contract, are entitled to be paid at least the NMW. There are a few exceptions set out in the legislation.

Are there any regional differences?

No. There are no regional differences to NMW. The same NMW rates apply to all workers across the UK.

Can I call to report an employer paying less than the NMW?

Yes. You can call the Pay and Work Rights Helpline on Tel 0800 917 2368. They take complaints from workers, employers and third parties. All complaints will be treated as confidential so far as is possible - however it is sometimes necessary to reveal a complaint has been made and reveal the complainant's identity when presenting complaints to a tribunal. Anonymous complaints will also be reviewed and the appropriate action taken.

Can I agree with my employer to be paid less than the NMW if that means they can afford to keep me on?

No. Such an agreement is void. It will be ineffective as an individual cannot waive their right to be paid the NMW and any payment below the NMW is illegal.

How is the NMW enforced?

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) enforces the NMW in all trade sectors, with the exception of the agricultural sector, which is enforced by agricultural wages inspectors.

You can call the Pay and Work Rights Helpline on Tel 0800 917 2368 if you wish to make a complaint. Complaints are passed to HMRC compliance officers located around the UK, who may follow the complaint up with a visit to the employer, as appropriate.

If you want to know more about NMW enforcement, you should call the Pay and Work Rights Helpline on Tel 0800 917 2368.

You can also see our guide on national minimum wage - record-keeping, calculating arrears and enforcement.

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