National minimum wage

Clio SpringerEditor's message: The national minimum wage has been a key policy area for successive governments since its introduction in 1999, with the Conservative administration asking the Low Pay Commission to recommend rates so that they “are set as high as possible without damaging the employment prospects of each group".

The national minimum wage is enforced through a combination of financial penalties for non-payment and a policy of "naming and shaming" - the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy publicises cases where employers have deliberately breached the national minimum wage laws.

Even if the rates that you pay appear to be significantly higher than the national minimum wage, you should still check that you are not inadvertently breaching the law. For example, a salary-sacrifice arrangement might bring an employee's pay below the relevant national minimum wage rate. This remains a breach of the national minimum wage rules even though a special exemption from an underpayment penalty may apply.

The level of the minimum wage is reviewed each year, with uprating taking place on 1 April. The national living wage is extended to workers aged 23 or over from 1 April 2021 and employers must now keep minimum wage records for six years rather than three.

Clio Springer, senior employment law editor

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