what is minimum wage?

All information correct from September 2019.

In the UK, almost all workers are entitled to be paid at least the National Minimum Wage (NMW), but what is minimum wage? A minimum wage is the lowest you're legally able to be paid per hour, depending on your age. If your salary is below the minimum wage for your age bracket - it is illegal.

To be entitled to minimum wage, you must be at least 16 years old and working. However, apprenticeships have a slightly different minimum wage rules. People who are not entitled to the minimum wage are; people who are self-employed, volunteers, and company directors.

People on internships who are on the following EU programmes; Erasmus+, Leonardo da Vinci and Comenius, are also not entitled to a minimum wage. For a fuller list of entitlements, check out the government website. Now the question, ‘what is minimum wage?’ has been answered, let's move on.

Current Minimum Wage

Each year, the UK government updates its minimum wage. These change each April. The current minimum wage is as follows;


Year 25 + 21 - 24 18 - 20 Under 18 Apprentice
April 2019 £8.21 £7.70 £6.15 £4.35 £3.90

If you're an apprentice, different rules apply depending on your age and if you have completed the first year of your apprenticeship. This can be a little complicated, so read this carefully!

People on an apprenticeship are entitled to the apprentice minimum wage rate if they are either;

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

Yeah, that's a little confusing. Here are some examples;

  • An apprentice aged 22 and hasn't finished their first year of the apprenticeship, can only be paid the minimum wage of at least £3.90 an hour.

  • An apprentice aged 22 and has finished their first year of the apprenticeship, can be paid the minimum wage of at least £7.70 an hour.

What is the living wage

The Living Wage started in 2001, is set by the Living Wage Foundation. But what is the living wage? The living wage is based on the average cost of living, figured out by independently researching families of various incomes across the UK.

The living wage applies to all workers over the age of 18, and the current rate is £9.00 an hour. However, this wage is optional - your employer isn't legally obliged to pay you the living wage. We think a good employer should. After all, you need to live.

The Living Wage Foundation campaigns employers to pay the living wage, and over 5000 UK businesses have adopted this wage rate.

London Living Wage

The London living wage is also the brainchild of the Living Wage Foundation. Through their research, the foundation discovered that London needed a separate living wage, compared to the rest of the UK. The cost of living is much higher in London, so the current London living wage is £10.55 per hour. This living wage is for all workers over the age of 18. Employers are not obligated to pay you this, either, unfortunately.

If you're feeling in an educational mood, why not check out our break down of tax. While you're here, have a look at our part-time jobs and graduate jobs, here on StudentJob.

All about salary and tax