I am an adult worker, and believe I'm being paid below the National Minimum Wage Rate. How can I complain?

The current National Minimum Wage (NMW) hourly rate (from 1 April 2019) is: 

  • £8.72 for workers aged 25 and over (which the government calls the 'National Living Wage'); 

  • £8.20 for workers aged between 21 to 24; 

  • £45 for workers aged between 18 to 20, except for workers aged 19 and over in the first year of an apprenticeship, who get the apprenticeship rate (see below); 

  • £4.55 aged 16 or 17; 

  • £4.15 for apprentices aged under 19 or aged 19 or over and in the first year of their apprenticeship. 

The National Minimum Wage is reviewed every year in April. 

If you are being paid less than the adult National Minimum Wage, there are various ways you can raise it: 

  • If you feel able to, you should raise it directly with your manager, preferably in writing, for example by email, so that you have a record. You have a clear legal right, to be paid the National Minimum Wage and employers can be fined for not paying it, as well as risking being 'named and shamed' by HMRC online. If your employer takes action against you for raising it, you have legal protection against dismissal or detriment for 'taking or proposing to take any step to claim the National Minimum Wage (such as raising the issue with your manager). 

  •  If you are a trade union member, you should call in the union. 

If neither of these are appropriate, you can contact the Acas helpline on 0300 123 1100. With your permission, the Acas Helpline can refer your case to HMRC who can pursue it on your behalf, including pay arrears. 

HMRC is responsible for making sure employers and employment agencies pay the NMW, and HMRC officers have powers to fine employers and to "name and shame" them by including them in a public list of non-payers. The fine can be as much as double the total amount the employer owes. HMRC officers can also enter premises, inspect records, interview employers and pass information on to workers. 

HMRC can collect under-payments of wages below the NMW on behalf of workers. Most claims are settled when the employer receives an under-payment notice from HMRC. 

You can initiate support from HMRC in recovering arrears by calling the Acas helpline. Acas will refer your complaint to HMRC minimum wage compliance officers. 

You can also make an online complaint about not being paid the National Minimum Wage. The same form can be used to complain about employment agencies, gangmasters and working hours.  

You also have the legal right to inspect your employer's pay records, accompanied, if you prefer, by another person of your choice. You must tell your employer that you will be accompanied when you give notice asking them to produce the records. Your employer must produce the records within 14 days. 

Individual workers also have the right to bring a claim in the employment tribunal for NMW arrears. Any tribunal claim must be brought within three months of the most recent non-payment. In the employment tribunal, only two years of arrears can be recovered in England, Scotland and Wales (but not Northern Ireland), but up to six years of arrears can be recovered in a civil court claim. 

For more information on tribunal claims, see our section on Enforcing your Rights. Rather than bringing an individual tribunal claim, it is likely to make more sense, in most cases that only involve a claim NMW arrears, to seek help from HMRC, preferably via a trade union. Trade unions are experts in minimum wage enforcement and wage bargaining.  

The national minimum wage is based on basic pay. In other words, your employer will breach the national minimum wage regulations if you only reach the national minimum wage threshold once premiums, such as overtime and shift supplements, are added to your basic hourly rate. 

Employers are no longer allowed to make your pay up to the national minimum wage by adding customers' tips. 

The National Minimum Wage is calculated using a “pay reference period”. This is usually a month, but if you are paid weekly, it will be a week. To avoid breaking the law, your employer must ensure that your basic average hourly rate, spread across your pay reference period, is at least the National Minimum Wage for your age. 

Note: This content is provided as general background information and should not be taken as legal advice or financial advice for your particular situation. Make sure to get individual advice on your case from your union, a source on our free help page or an independent financial advisor before taking any action.

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