Business Law
September 16, 2021

Does the National Minimum Wage apply if they "only make the tea and sweep the floor?"

Incensed reading the title? Curious to know whether it's true? We help to dispel the myths...

Reassuringly, ALL employees are entitled, by law, to be paid a minimum amount on average for the hours they work. This is called the National Living Wage (NLW) if you're aged 23 or the National Minimum Wage (NMW) if you're aged under 23 or an apprentice.

The current rates are:

• £8.91 - Age 23 or over (National Living Wage)

• £8.36 - Age 21 to 22

• £6.56 - Age 18 to 20

• £4.62 - Age under 18

• £4.30 - Apprentice

If an employer does not pay at these rates, an employee can bring a claim against them. HMRC can also bring a claim and it can be a criminal office. Recently, HMRC published some of the excuses that employers have made for not paying the minimum wage, these include:

1. “She does not deserve the National Minimum Wage because she only makes the teas and sweeps the floors.”

2. “I thought it was okay to pay young workers below the National Minimum Wage as they are not British and therefore do not have the right to be paid it.”

3. “My workers are often just on standby when there are no customers in the shop; I only pay them for when they are actually serving someone.”

4. “It is part of UK culture not to pay young workers for the first three months as they have to prove their ‘worth’ first.”

5. “My accountant and I speak a different language – he does not understand me, and that is why he does not pay my workers the correct wages.”

6. “My employee is still learning so they are not entitled to the National Minimum Wage.”

7. “The National Minimum Wage does not apply to my business.”

8. “I have got an agreement with my workers that I will not pay them the National Minimum Wage; they understand, and they even signed a contract to this effect.”

9. “My workers like to think of themselves as being self-employed and the National Minimum Wage does not apply to people who work for themselves.”

10. “The employee was not a good worker, so I did not think they deserved to be paid the National Minimum Wage.”

Unsurprisingly, none of these are valid reasons for failing to pay the National Minimum wage!

Last year, HMRC helped more than 155,000 workers across the UK recover more than £16 million in pay which was due to them, and also issued more than £14 million in penalties. Whilst the majority of employers do pay their employees at least the National Minimum Wage, it is clear that there are still employers out there who do not.

If you are an employer or employee who wants to know more about this, then please get in touch.

Need to talk to us?

Our friendly and experienced team are here to advise on national minimum wage issues or assist with any other employment law matter which you or your business may be facing. Please get in touch on 01892 526344 or email

For further information on all our Commercial & Dispute Resolution services, please click here.

Fixed Fee Appointments - £100 + VAT

We offer an initial one hour fixed fee appointment with one of our experienced solicitors for £100 + VAT. This gives you the opportunity to talk your matter through with a solicitor, get their advice and then consider your options before deciding how to progress your legal matter. Please get in touch if you feel this type of appointment would be beneficial.

The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.

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