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What is the National Minimum Wage?

6 min read | 14 January, 2020 By Rachael Down


The National Minimum Wage (NMW) and National Living Wage (NLW) 2020 starts at £4.15 for apprentices and caps at £8.72 for those aged 25 and over.

To qualify for the UK NMW, workers must be old enough to leave school. 

What's the National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage?

It's about age. The National Minimum Wage applies to workers aged 24 and under.

  • National Minimum Wage <24 years old.
  • National Living Wage 25> years old.

The difference is for those who are 25 years old and over. This rate is called National Living Wage.

These update at the start of April each year.

Breathe: By transferring your workers personal information, such as date of birth and nationality onto a secure cloud-based platform, you can view and then adjust hourly rates inline with NLW and NMW requirements. 

Employee profile NMW NLW

Rates for 2020

The National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage change at the start of April each year. 

Year 25>  21 - 24 18 - 20 <18 Apprentice
April 2020 £8.72 £8.20 £6.45 £4.55 £4.15


April 2019 (current rate) £8.21 £7.70 £6.15 £4.35 £3.90


Government-led target rates

In 2019, the government called for a re-evaluation from The Low Pay Commission (LPC) for the National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage.

The target forecast for 2020 (shown in the table above) is calculated from evidence collected across UK SMEs in 2019. 

Apprenticeships start at £3.90 p/h

An apprentice is a person aged:

  • under 19; or
  • 19 or over and in the first year of their apprenticeship course

Apprenticeships provide hands-on vocational experience for those who're just starting out and wish to build a stable career. As you can imagine, there are multiple benefits for both parties.

As we enter the largest multi-generational workforce to date, apprenticeship programmes provide ample opportunities for reverse mentoring as well as - where younger generations help mature employees' learn new methods to build digital and technical confidence.

 Ella award-min


Breathe: We welcomed our first apprentice, Ella Hammerton into Breathe's marketing team in April 2019. The benefits are mutual and tenfold. Congratulations to Ella on her silver win in The National SME awards 2019. 

HMRC National Minimum Wage audit

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) are streamlining their investigations and audit process in a bid to expose and reprimand employers who underpay their staff. 

It is the employer's responsibility to pay the correct NMW and NLW rates to all eligible employers and apprentices. If there has been an underpayment, employers are requested to immediately pay any arrears as well as any fines.

HMRC officers are entitled to check payment records at anytime. This can be prompted from an employee or worker complaint, or simply part of the audit.

Breathe: During a NMW audit, it falls to the employer to provide proof of correct payment. All records are kept for 3 years, so make sure they're stored safely in the cloud. 

NMW and NLW rates after 2016

Year 25> 21 - 24 18 - 20  <18 Apprentice
April 2018 to March 2019 £7.83 £7.38 £5.90 £4.20 £3.70
April 2017 to March 2018 £7.50 £7.05 £5.60 £4.05 £3.50
October 2016 to March 2017 £7.20 £6.95 £5.55 £4.00 £3.40
April 2016 to September 2016 £7.20 £6.70 £5.30 £3.87 £3.30

NMW pre April 2016 

Before April 2016 and the introduction of National Living Wage, NMW rates were updated every October. Here's what they used to look like:

Year 21> 18 - 20 <18 Apprentice
2015 £6.70 £5.30 £3.87 £3.30
2014 £6.50 £5.13 £3.79 £2.73
2013 £6.31 £5.03 £3.72 £2.68
2012 £6.19 £4.98 £3.68 £2.65


Extra guidance

The government recently released a minimum wage calculator to help employers and employees work out NMW and NLW eligibility.

Contact ACAS for legal rights and impartial advice regarding NMW and NLW. 

Kudos Trials


*Table figures from gov.uk. 

Posted on 14 January, 2020

By Rachael Down

in Employment Law

Tag Employment Law

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