Most workers in the UK are legally entitled to a national minimum hourly wage regardless of where they work, the size of the company or the work that they do. If you are an employee working under a contract of employment you are entitled to either the national living wage or minimum wage. You are also entitled to national living or minimum wage if you are a casual labourer, a part-time worker, or on short-term contracts. Agency workers, homeworkers and pieceworkers are also entitled to national living or minimum wage.

These rates are for the National Living Wage (for those aged 23 and over) and the National Minimum Wage (for those of at least school leaving age). The rates change on 1 April every year.

As of April 2023, the new rates will be:

  • £10.42 per hour - 23 years old and over.
  • £10.18 per hour - 21-22 years old.
  • £7.49 per hour - 18-20 years old.
  • £5.28 per hour - 16-17 years old.
  • £5.28 per hour – Apprentice.

Apprentices are entitled to the apprentice rate if they’re either:

  • Aged under 19.
  • Aged 19 or over and in the first year of their apprenticeship.

For more information on apprenticeships visit the UK Government website. The rate will then change every April.

You must be paid the national living or minimum wage for each hour worked in a ‘pay reference period’. This means your actual pay period, e.g. if you are paid every week your pay reference period is one week. If you are paid every month, your pay reference period is one month. You do not have to be paid the national minimum wage for each hour worked, but you must be paid the national minimum wage on average for the time worked in a pay reference period.

This means if you work for 4 hours a week and you are paid weekly, it is not important how much you earn in each single hour, as long as your pay is equal or above the minimum wage spread over the 4 hours. 

For more information about the National Minimum Wage visit the UK Government website.

There are three main ways that you can be paid for a job:

Time work

This is the most common method of payment for part-time workers. Your wages are calculated at an hourly rate e.g. £10.420 per hour. There are special rules on whether rest breaks and travelling times are included when calculating whether you have been paid the national minimum wage.

Salaried hours work

This means you are paid an annual salary, and you are generally paid in equal instalments. For example, £21,000 per year for a 37-hour week. 1/12 will be paid each month, regardless of the actual number of workdays that there were in the month.

Output work

This is work that is paid according to the number of tasks you complete, items you make or sales you confirm; e.g. £5 per 1,000 envelopes you stuff, £2 per tray of strawberries you pick or 30p per ticket you sell. This is also known as piecework or commission work.

If you are employed to work for a set number of hours, e.g. from 7am to 11am, you must be paid the average of at least the minimum wage for each hour worked in the pay reference period. If you are not asked to work for set hours, you can either be paid for each hour you spend working or you can sign a ‘fair estimate’ agreement.

A ‘fair estimate agreement’ is a written agreement, which should be signed before a pay reference period; setting out how many hours you are likely to work. You must also have a contract stating the piece-rate for each item. It is important that you keep a written record of the hours you work.

You have the right to examine records relating to your pay if you believe you are being paid less than the national minimum wage. You can request a copy from your employer in writing. They must give you that information within 14 days of your request. If you believe your employer may be breaking the law by not paying you the minimum wage, then you can contact the Pay and Work Rights Helpline known as ACAS on 0300 123 1100 Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm.

You can read more on the UK Government website about making a complaint about not receiving the national minimum wage from your employer.

Pay Slips

If you are an employee you have a legal right to receive your own detailed written pay statement from your employer at or before the time that you are paid. The only people who do not have this right are members of the police service, certain people in the fishing industry, and freelance agents. A pay statement or payslip must by law give written details of the following:

  • Your ‘gross’ pay, i.e. the amount before tax is taken off.
  • The amounts of any deductions and why they are deducted, e.g. for income tax, national insurance, pension contributions, trade union subscriptions or payments to charity.
  • Your ‘net’ pay i.e. after any deductions have been taken off.
  • Details of how your pay will be paid, i.e. by cash or cheque or straight into your bank account (known as a BACS payment).

If you have not received a pay slip, you can make complaint to an employment tribunal. All complaints must be made within three months of being paid without a pay slip.

Unlawful deductions from wages

There are certain circumstances when it is lawful for your employer to take money from your wage. These are when:

  • They must deduct by law e.g. income tax or National Insurance contribution.
  • Your contract says they can.
  • You have given written permission for them to do so before the deduction was made.
  • You are repaying a previous overpayment of wages.
  • You have been on strike or taken part in an industrial action.

If you believe that your employer has made a deliberate decision not to pay all or part of the wages owed and it is not for one of the reasons listed above then your employer may have made an unlawful deduction from wages.

If you cannot resolve issues through raising the issue informally or formally internally, then you will need to go through an employment tribunal or County Court to make the employer repay the money that has been deducted. There are charges to issue both of these proceeding, but some students may be able to apply for these fees to be remitted, so please contact the Students’ Union Advice Service so that this can be checked.

You can take a case of unlawful deductions from wages to an employment tribunal, regardless of how long you have been working for your employer. You must make your complaint to the employment tribunal within three months of the date on which the wages were due to be paid.

What can the AberSU Advice Service do to help?

The AberSU Advice Service is independent from the University and provides a free, confidential, and impartial service to all Aberystwyth University students. 

The Advice Service can assist you in a range of ways, including:

  • Explain your rights in relation to employment legislation and signpost where appropriate to external advice services.
  • Review any draft statements that you prepare and offer suggestions.
  • Accompany you where appropriate to any meetings to provide support and representation.
  • Help you to collate appropriate evidence to support your case.

Contact an Advisor

Useful links

First Produced: September 2020

Reviewed: April 2023