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 is:

  • £7.50 for workers aged 25 and over (called the National Living Wage);
  • £7.05 for workers aged between 21 to 24;
  • £5.60 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);
  • £4.05 aged 16 or 17;
  • £3.40 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. This is a clear legal right, and employers can be fined for not paying the NMW, 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 what is called 'asserting a statutory right'.
  • If you are a trade union member, you should call in the union.
  • If neither of these are appropriate, you can contact the Pay and Work Rights Helpline on 0800 917 2368 or the Acas helpline on 0300 123 1100.
  • You can make a complaint to HMRC.

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 report your employer or employment agency to HMRC for failing to pay the NMW by completing a form with your details and emailing it to HMRC.

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

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 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, but up to six years of arrears can be recovered in a civil court claim.

In practice, individual employment tribunal claims for non-payment of the NMW are increasingly rare, since the introduction of tribunal fees. However, there is no longer a fee to access an employment tribunal, as of July 2017, when a union-backed case at the Supreme Court ruled charging for access to tribunals was unlawful. The average value of a claim for minimum wage arrears is just £125 (2014-15).

For more information on tribunal claims, see our section on Enforcing your Rights. It is likely to make more sense, in most cases involving recovery of 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.

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.