Before April 2016, there was no national living wage (NLW), so UK businesses could pay their employees as much (or as little) as they wanted.  When it was introduced, it was agreed that the pay should depend on the worker’s age and should gradually increase till it reached the maximum amount at the age of 25.

As of April 2019, it’s due to rise again, and workers of 25 or over will receive £8.21 per hour instead of the £7.83 hourly rate they currently get.  The national minimum wage (NMW) for those under 25 will also go up.  Apprentices under 19 (or over 19 but in the first year of the apprenticeship) will see an increase of 20p per hour to £3.90.  Those aged 16-17 will be paid £4.35 per hour compared to the £4.20 they now get.  Employees aged 18-20 will see an increase in their pay packet of 25p an hour, so their pay will be £6.15.  Anyone in the 21-24 age group will receive £7.70 an hour instead of £7.83.

Certain groups are exempt from the rule determining their hourly rate including the self-employed, students on a work placement and anyone living in the family home of their employer (who does, for example, household chores).

One of the complaints about both the NLW and NMW is that there’s no London weighting (as many professional jobs have) even though it’s quite obvious that living in the capital is much more expensive.  Another cause for concern is the differentiation between the different age groups.

Just because someone is 17 years old, this doesn’t necessarily mean that they have fewer expenses than a 25-year-old.  The final issue about these set rates for workers is that it’s only due to reach 60% of the UK’s median wage (or £9 per hour) by 2020.  Critics complain that this sum doesn’t reflect the true living costs.  They claim that it has been set at a lower rate to make it more affordable for employers.

If you are on the NLW or NMW, it can often be a struggle to make ends meet.  A direct lender can give you an instant decision online if you need to borrow some money for an emergency or to see you through till your next payday.

If you discover that you aren’t being paid the correct hourly rate for your age group, experts in employment law first suggest that you should take the matter up with your employer or the HR department of the firm you work for.

It’s much better to deal with the matter in an informal way because it could have been the result of an oversight or human error.  If this face-to-face approach doesn’t work, your next option is to send your employer a grievance in the form of a written complaint.  If this is ignored, you have a choice: you could complain directly to HMRC (anonymously if you prefer), or you could present a complaint to an Employment Tribunal.