Advice Column: Living Wage
I think am getting paid less than the minimum wage – what can I do?
National Living Wage is the highest band of the National Minimum Wage which you should get if you’re 25 or over.
Most people who work are entitled to get paid at least the National Minimum Wage. This includes casual workers, people on zero hours contracts and agency workers.
Your employer can’t fire you or alter your work to get around the National Living Wage. For example, they can’t take work that you’ve been doing away from you and give it to someone under 25 to avoid having to increase your wage. If you think your employer has changed your job to get around the minimum wage, it’s worth getting advice.
Find out whether you’re entitled to the minimum wage or living wage
You’re not entitled to the minimum wage if you’re any of the following:
- self-employed – bear in mind that you might think you’re ‘self-employed’ when in fact you’re a ‘worker’ entitled to minimum wage (it’s always best to check whether this applies to you and get advice if you’re not sure)
- under 16
- living and working with a family as an au pair or nanny, and not paying towards your accommodation or meals
- in the armed forces
- a volunteer or doing work experience
- a prisoner
- some trainees and interns (however, the eligibility rules are complicated so you should get advice)
- some farm workers (check if minimum wage applies to you on GOV.UK)
If you’re not sure whether you fall into any of these categories, you can check if you’re entitled to minimum wage using the TUC’s checker – or call the Acas helpline.
Telephone: 0300 123 1100
Text relay: 18001 0300 123 1100
Open 8am to 8pm Monday to Friday, and 9am to 1pm Saturday.
Calls cost between 3p and 45p a minute from mobiles, and up to 12p a minute from landlines.
Check if you’re getting minimum wage or living wage
If you’re entitled to the minimum wage, the amount you should get depends on your age and whether you’re an apprentice.
These are the National Minimum Wage rates:
|About you||Name of wage||Oct 2016 hourly rate (before tax)||From April 2017|
|Age 25 or over||National Living Wage||£7.20||£7.50|
|Age 21-24||National Minimum Wage||£6.95||£7.05|
|Age 18-20||National Minimum Wage||£5.55||£5.60|
|Age 16-17||National Minimum Wage||£4.00||£4.05|
|Apprentices aged 16-18 or first-year apprentices if you’re 19 or over||National Minimum Wage||£3.40||£3.50|
You can use the National Minimum Wage calculator on GOV.UK to check whether you’re actually getting it. If you’re getting less than minimum wage, the calculator will tell you how much your employer owes you.
The rules are slightly tricky (and you should get advice) if:
- you’re not paid for time travelling on business, eg between appointments
- you haven’t been paid for time spent on a training course
- you’re not paid for time ‘on call’
- your employer takes money from your wages for accommodation
Speak to your employer if you’re not being paid the minimum wage or living wage
If you’re not getting the minimum wage when you should be getting it, your employer owes you the difference between what you should have been paid and what they’ve actually been paying you.
Try having an informal chat with your employer. Ask them to explain how they’ve worked out your pay, and to tell you why they think you’re not entitled to be paid minimum wage – or why they think you’re already getting it.
You could print out your result from the National Minimum Wage calculator and show them it.
If your employer agrees they’ve made a genuine mistake, ask them to pay you what you’re owed immediately.
Your employer might say they give you benefits that ‘top up’ your pay rate to the minimum wage, eg they give you meals or you get to keep all your tips. You should ask for the wage instead – you’ve got the right to be paid minimum wage on top of any extra benefits like these.
If you’re not getting anywhere
If you need more help at any point, you can get advice from your local Citizens Advice.
Take the following steps:
Step 1: call the Acas helpline
If you haven’t already, call the Acas helpline on 0300 123 1100. They’ll confirm whether you’re entitled to minimum wage and help you work out your options.
Step 2: raise a grievance
Check if your employer has a formal grievance procedure you can use. Even if they haven’t, you can still raise a grievance – for example by writing a letter.
Explain why you think you haven’t been paid enough and say you want them to pay the difference.
Step 3: early conciliation
If your grievance doesn’t get the result you want, you can take your employer to a tribunal. You’ll have to notify Acas first.
Acas is an organisation that provides independent support to help sort out employment disputes. They’ll see if your employer will agree to a process called ‘early conciliation’ – a way to resolve disputes without going to a tribunal.
The quickest way to start is to fill in the early conciliation form on the Acas website. Or you can call the Acas early conciliation team on 0300 123 1122.
Step 4: take your employer to a tribunal
Your last resort is to take your employer to a tribunal – think carefully before you go ahead, as it could be expensive and stressful. You’ve got 3 months less a day to start a tribunal claim, starting from the date of the most recent underpayment. (You need to have already notified Acas, gone through the early conciliation process and got an early conciliation certificate.)
Step 5: take your employer to court
In some cases you might be able to take your employer to court. You should only consider this if you don’t have the option of going to a tribunal, eg because you’re over the time limit. Get advice if this applies to you.
Report your employer to HM Revenue and Customs
Regardless of whether you raise a grievance with your employer, you can report them to HMRC. They’ll decide whether to investigate your employer – there’s no guarantee that they will, but they’re more likely to do so if several people who work for your employer make complaints.
It could take a long time, so it’s best not to rely on this as a way to get the money you’re owed – unless you can’t go to a tribunal.
Call the Acas helpline on 0300 123 1100 to report your employer. They’ll take details of your complaint and pass it on to HMRC.
You’re legally protected from unfair dismissal or other unfair treatment, even if you report your employer. In practice this may not stop your employer from treating you unfairly if they suspect you’ve reported them.
Tell Acas that you don’t want to be named when HMRC contacts your employer if you’re worried.
If HMRC finds your employer isn’t paying the minimum wage to people who are entitled to it, they’ll take steps to force them to do so.