About minimum wage

Minimum wage refers to the legally mandated lowest hourly wage rate that employers must pay to their employees. It is designed to ensure that workers receive a fair and reasonable wage for their labour, providing a basic standard of living and protecting against exploitation. 

In the United Kingdom, the minimum wage is known as the National Minimum Wage (NMW) and is a legal requirement for employers to ensure that workers are paid a specified minimum hourly rate. The NMW is overseen and enforced by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), and it applies to most workers in the UK, regardless of their age or employment status. 

Our position

  1. Engage with the Low Pay Commission (LPC) to demonstrate a commitment to understanding and advocating for the needs of smaller employers and workers 

  2. Highlight the burden of national insurance on small employers 

  3. Campaign for further reductions in the national insurance burden

Read more in the additional information section below. 

What you can do

Updates to National Minimum Wage and Living Wage are shared in our weekly newsletter. If not already, sign up to receive it here. 

Keep us informed by letting us know of any current issues, opinions or updates. Email membership@bira.co.uk. 



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Age-Based Wage Tiers

The NMW in the UK is structured into different tiers based on the worker's age. The wage tiers are:

  1. National Living Wage (NLW): This is the highest tier and applies to workers aged 23 and over. The NLW rate is typically higher than the rates for younger workers.
  2. Standard Adult Rate: This rate applies to workers aged 21 to 22.
  3. Development Rate: This rate applies to workers aged 18 to 20.
  4. Young Workers' Rate: This rate applies to workers aged 16 to 17.
  5. Apprentice Rate: This rate applies to apprentices who are either under 19 years old or in the first year of their apprenticeship. Apprentices aged 19 and over who have completed their first year are entitled to the rate that corresponds to their age category. 


Other things to note

Annual Adjustments: The UK government reviews and adjusts the National Minimum Wage rates annually. Changes typically come into effect in April each year, although it's important to note that the specific rates and age categories may have been updated since my knowledge cutoff in September 2021. The government sets these rates based on recommendations from the independent Low Pay Commission, which considers factors such as inflation, average earnings, and the impact on businesses and employment.

Enforcement and Penalties: Employers in the UK are legally obligated to pay their workers at least the minimum wage applicable to their age category. HMRC conducts regular inspections and investigations to enforce compliance with minimum wage laws. Non-compliant employers may face penalties, including fines and being publicly named as offenders.

Exemptions and Special Circumstances: While the majority of workers in the UK are covered by the National Minimum Wage, there are some exemptions and special circumstances. For example, certain categories of workers, such as self-employed individuals, volunteers, and some apprenticeships, may not be entitled to the minimum wage. Additionally, there are specific rules regarding accommodations provided by employers and deductions that may be made from a worker's pay. 

National Minimum Wage VS Living Wage

It's important for both employers and workers in the UK to be aware of the National Minimum Wage rates and ensure compliance with the law. Workers should receive at least the minimum wage applicable to their age category, and employers must stay up to date with any annual changes and adjust wages accordingly. 

Minimum Wage vs. Living Wage: Minimum wage sets a basic legal standard, but it may not always align with the actual cost of living. In some cases, it may fall short of providing workers with a wage that covers all their essential needs. The concept of a living wage advocates for a wage rate that is sufficient to meet basic living expenses and enable a decent standard of living. 

Additional information

Consulting with the Low Pay Commission (LPC) is a valuable step in addressing concerns related to the National Minimum Wage (NMW) and ensuring fair wages for workers. Bira's engagement with the LPC demonstrates a commitment to understanding and advocating for the needs of smaller employers and workers. 

While recognising the importance of a living wage for workers, Bira highlights the burden of national insurance on small employers. National insurance is a contribution that employers make towards their employees' benefits and the overall social security system. Bira suggests that further reductions in the national insurance burden for small employers would enable them to compete more effectively with larger businesses and alleviate some of the financial challenges they face. 

By addressing the issue of national insurance, Bira aims to create a more supportive environment for smaller businesses, enabling them to allocate their financial resources more efficiently and enhance their competitiveness. This can contribute to overall economic growth and job creation, while ensuring workers receive fair wages and benefits. 

Engaging with the Low Pay Commission and advocating for reduced national insurance burdens aligns with Bira's mission to represent the interests of smaller businesses and promote a business-friendly environment.