What is the minimum wage?
According to HM Revenue & Customs, "Almost everyone who legally works in the UK must get a minimum level of pay. This is called the national minimum wage. You can be paid more than the national minimum wage but you must not be paid less."
The National Minimum Wage (NMW) is a minimum amount per hour that most workers in the UK are entitled to. Obviously there are different levels of NMW, depending on variables such as your age and employment status.
The good news is that the Minimum Wage legislation generally keeps getting moved upwards in order to provide a reasonable living wage for lower paid or unskilled workers and stop them from being exploited by employers.
So, if you're concerned that you're not getting enough – here is a brief run down of the latest increases and changes to the NMW on the money:
In October 2015, the National Minimum Wage rate is to be increased and provides for workers aged 21 and over to be given £6.70 per hour.
For workers aged 18-20 the new rate is £5.30 per hour and for workers aged 16-17 the rate is now £3.87.
The changes also apply to Apprentices too and those under 19, or over 19 and in the first year of the apprenticeship, are to be given the basic minimum wage of £3.30 per hour.
Coming up in April 2016, a compulsory National Living Wage is due to be introduced and this applies to all working people aged 25 and over – this compulsory wage will be set at £7.20 per hour.
Believe it or not, nearly one million of Britain's lowest-paid workers will gain from these changes. The National Minimum Wage is designed to protect the low paid without damaging their chances of getting a job. What's more, as the economy recovers, it is important that the low paid aren't left behind when wages and employment increase.
Don't forget that back in October 2013, legislation was passed that meant employers who fail to pay the National Minimum Wage (NMW) will be publicly named and shamed making it easier for the Government to clamp down on rogue businesses. This is on top of financial penalties that come into force against employers who fail to comply.
Most workers in the UK over compulsory 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.
That means you are entitled to the NMW even if you were persuaded to sign a contract agreeing to be paid at a lower rate. The contract will have no legal effect and you must still be paid the proper rate.
Finally, in case you're being exploited
Paying any less than the minimum wage is illegal. So if your employer is not conforming to this and you feel you're being exploited you can contact the Pay and Work Rights Helpline and state your concerns.