What is wage law?

Much is made of the importance of fair wages in employment, and for good reason. Whether you are in your first waitressing job at the age of sixteen or the chairperson of a multinational company the right to a fair wage is yours, and there are laws in the UK specifically designed to protect the employee.

There isn’t, however, one law applicable to everyone. The laws are different depending on your age and the type of work you are doing.

So what is it?

Wage law, commonly referred to as ‘minimum wage’ is a legal right to a certain (hourly) pay, below which an employer is not permitted to pay, unless certain exceptions apply.

The wage law covers nearly all UK employees and was most recently updated in October 2013. For the rates brought in on this date, go to our minimum wage page.

Why have a minimum wage?

The rationale behind the law is that normally employers are in much stronger bargaining positions than employees, and knowing that (in certain jobs and among certain sections of society) they can offer their employees wages which might not guarantee the employee a decent standard of living.

It was therefore decided that employers should be mandated to pay above a certain level.

According to the wage law an employer must pay an employee an hourly rate, but the manner in which the hours are calculated depends on the type of work the employee does, the salaried hours they work and whether output can be measured or not.

Employer requirements

Employers are legally required to maintain records showing that their workers are being paid above the wage-law minimum, although existing records (such as payroll) are generally sufficient.

For example, employers who pay a salary well beyond what it required by the wage law can simply show Pay-As-You-Earn slips to satisfy this requirement.

If you are worried that you are not receiving a fair wage, or if you are concerned that your company is in violation of the wage law, it is a good idea to look into the details of the law.

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