The National Minimum Wage is now 20 years old! Here is a bit of history, bringing you up-to-date with a bit of a reminder thrown in

The National Minimum Wage Act 1998 introduced the National Minimum Wage (NMW) from April 1999.  The Regulations of the same year introduced the following rates:

  • £3.60 was the ‘main rate’, applying to workers aged 22 and above
  • £3.00 was the ‘youth development’ rate, applying to workers aged 18 to 21
  • £2.85 was the daily ‘accommodation offset’

Things have evolved since 1999 and we now have a range of rates including the Apprentice Rate and the National Living Wage.  Call them what you like, they all fall under NMW legislation and, therefore, Happy Birthday NMW!

NMW 2019

The National Minimum Wage (Amendment) Regulations 2019 have been made a Statutory Instrument and come into force on 01 April 2019.  They update the National Minimum Wage Regulations 2015 and see the following rates put into the governing National Minimum Wage Regulations 2015 which apply UK-wide:

Rate Current Rates From April 2019
£ £
Adults (25+) aka the National Living Wage 7.83 8.21
Adult (21 – 24) 7.38 7.70
Youth Development (18 – 20) 5.90 6.15
16 – 17 Year Old (under 18 but over school leaving age) 4.20 4.35
Apprentice* 3.70 3.90


* For apprentices aged 16 to 18 and those aged 19 or over who are in their first year.  All other apprentices are entitled to rate applicable for their age.

Further, the Accommodation Offset daily rate increases from £7.00 to £7.55.

And the effective date is…

It is the Regulations that come into force on 01 April 2019.  Unlike many announcements, newsletters and Webinars, that does not mean that the new rates come into force on that date.

The new rates are not effective 01 April 2019.  They are effective from the first full Pay Reference Period (PRP) that starts on or after 01 April 2019.

I expect newspapers, advertisements and television stations will be repeating the same incorrect information about 01 April in due course so be careful.  Though it brings into question:

What is the Pay Reference Period?

The PRP, according to the National Minimum Wage Regulations 2015, is the period of time for which someone is paid:

A “pay reference period” is a month, or in the case of a worker who is paid wages by reference to a period shorter than a month, that period.

The date that they are actually paid is irrelevant.  It is all to do with the period of time that is measured for that payday.  For example:

A monthly-paid employee

Will often be paid from the first to the last working day of the month and this is their PRP.  In April 2019, the PRP will be 01 to 30 April.  The fact that the employee might be paid on 25 April has no bearing on the PRP, which is still 01 to 30 April.

A weekly-paid employee

Will have a PRP of a week.  For example, someone that is paid on Friday 12 April 2019 may be paid in arrears for the week that commences Sunday 31 March and finishes Saturday 06 April 2019.

The fact that they are paid after 01 April 2019 has no bearing on the PRP which started before 01 April 2019.

Determining the applicable rate and the PRP…

Having established what the PRP is, the next step is to determine what the law says about the rate of pay that should be paid in that PRP.  When making amendments to the 2015 regulations,  The National Minimum Wage (Amendment) Regulations 2016 really help clarify this in simple terms and say that the minimum hourly rate:

‘at which the worker is entitled to be remunerated as respects work in the pay reference period is the rate that applies to the worker on the first day of that period’.

So, referring back to the above examples:

  • 01 to 30 April 2019 PRP – the worker must be paid at least the rate that applied on the first day of the prp, i.e. 01 April 2019. If the worker was aged 24 on the first day of the PRP then they are legally entitled to be paid at £7.70, even if they reach the age of 25 during the PRP
  • 31 March to 06 April 2019 PRP – the worker must be paid at least the value of the NMW / NLW that applied on the first day of the PRP (31 March). If they are 25 on this day they have a statutory right to be paid at £7.83 for the entire PRP.  The days from 01 April do not have to be paid at the increased rate of £8.21, as that rate only applies for the first full PRP on or after 01 April 2018 (which commences 07 April)
Of course…

There is absolutely nothing to say that an employer cannot make payment at the increased rate on 01 April 2019 if they chose to.  The whole point of this article is to say that the employer is not breaching the NMW / NLW Regulations if they apply the legislation as it is written.

Further, employers have to be careful about the hours that constitute working hours and the deductions that may or may not reduce NMW pay.  There is a lot of guidance out there, however, it is worth starting with that written by the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) and NIdirect and working on from there.

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