National Living Wage: what’s it all about?

A young person is wearing a heart t-shirt and holding a note. In the background are orange clouds and coins to represent the National Living Wage

Whether you’re looking for work or have just started a new job, it’s important to know your rights when it comes to getting paid. If you’re over 23, that means you should be being paid at least the National Living Wage. But what is the National Living Wage? Read on as we explain all you need to know and what to do if you think you’re being underpaid.

So what is the National Living Wage?

The NLW is the minimum pay per hour that workers over 23 years old are entitled to. It’s set by the government. In the year 2022/23 the UK National Living Wage is £9.50 per hour. Anyone 23 and over should be paid at least this amount. If you are under 23, you should be getting the National Minimum Wage, which differs depending on your age. Take a look at the table below to find out what you’re entitled to. 

Age  Minimum hourly wage 2022/23
23 and over  £9.50
21 – 22 £9.18
18-20 £6.83
16-17 £4.81
Apprentice £4.81

The government issues a National Living Wage increase once a year in April.

Is there any reason why I wouldn’t get the National Living Wage?

You are not eligible for National Living Wage if you’re… 

  • Self-employed
  • On certain government schemes at pre-apprenticeship level
  • On a government employment programme to give you training or work experience
  • Related to your boss and living in the same house as them
  • Living in the same house as your employer – e.g. nannies and au pairs
  • Doing odd jobs for friends or neighbours
  • A member of the armed forces

What is the difference between the National Living Wage and the Living Wage?

As well as the NLW, you may also have heard of the Living Wage… it’s confusing to say the least. But essentially, the NLW is set by the government and the Living Wage is set by the Living Wage Foundation – an organisation that campaigns for higher minimum wages to improve the lives of people on low incomes.  

The Living Wage for 2022/23 is £9.90 per hour and the London Living Wage is £11.05. Employers don’t have to pay the Living Wage but a lot of employers choose to. Unfortunately employees aren’t entitled to the Living Wage.

I don’t think I’m being paid enough, what should I do?

If you don’t think you’re being paid the correct hourly rate for your age, talk to your employer. There may have been a mistake and they should sort it out straight away. It may feel awkward bringing this up with your boss but it’s important that you get what you deserve – take a look at our tips on how to ask for a pay rise for more advice on speaking to your employer about money.

If for whatever reason your employer is refusing to put your pay up, you can get free and confidential advice from the Acas helpline. They will be able to advise you on your legal rights and what steps you may need to take in order to get the money you’re entitled to. You can also make a complaint to HMRC about your employer – if HMRC finds you’ve been paid incorrectly, your employer must pay you the amount owed plus a fine to HMRC. 

At the end of the day, jobs come with a certain amount of life admin. No one likes life admin, it’s boring as hell. But if you know your rights and keep track of your payments, you’ll make sure you’re not missing out on money owed. 

Take a look at the rest of The Mix’s money advice and tips here.

Next Steps

  • Citizens Advice offer free help with housing, money and legal problems. Find your local centre.
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Updated on 06-Jul-2022

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