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In conversation with North East LEP chairman Paul Woolston on the new NMW rates

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) welcomes today’s announcement (October 1) by the Government that the National Minimum Wage (NMW) is increasing, including for apprentices.

It is the minimum pay per hour that almost all workers are entitled to by law and varies by age and whether they are an apprentice.

The new rates of pay are:

• £6.70 for those aged 21 and over

• £5.30 for 18-20 year olds

• £3.87 for under 18s

• £3.30 for all apprentices in their first year. If apprentices are aged 19+, second year pay should be in-line with the NMW rates for their age group (£5.30 if they are aged 19 or 20, £6.70 if they are 21+).

The biggest increase is for apprentices in their first year, whose rate has risen from £2.73 in 2014 to £3.30. I’m delighted to see the Government recognising the importance of apprenticeships. This higher rate of entry pay will hopefully encourage more young people to consider an apprenticeship, helping us to create the next generation of skilled workers here in the North East.

While the increased NMW rates are positive news for staff, apprentices, and of course the North East economy, it’s also important that employers know their responsibilities under the law. It’s illegal for businesses not to pay someone the NMW or to falsify payment records. We want to ensure that everyone entitled to NMW receives it and that employers know their rights, obligations and the consequences of not paying NMW.

Whether you are a small business with two employees or a multinational corporation employing thousands of people, it’s your obligation to make sure all staff are paid correctly at the new rates.

Employers that don’t abide by the rules could be fined up to £20,000 for each worker not paid at the correct rate, and they will also be required to pay any arrears immediately. Plus, they will be publicly named and shamed.

Staff can check they are being paid fairly via the NMW calculator at http://bit.ly/NMWOnlineCalculator, where you can also find out if you are owed arrears in pay from previous years.

If you are being paid less than the National Minimum Wage, talk to your employer if you are comfortable doing so. Otherwise, you can phone the confidential Acas helpline on 0300 123 1100 and a team member will support you in securing the money you are owed.

Employers can also use the Acas telephone or online helpline at http://bit.ly/AcasHelpline if they need any support to correct any issues. There are also further tools and information for employers at the Government’s NMW website at http://bit.ly/TheNationalMinimumWage.

Workers can check whether they are eligible for the NMW at the Government website https://www.gov.uk/national-minimum-wage/who-gets-the-minimum-wage.

By North East LEP chairman, Paul Woolston.

As former Senior Partner at Price Waterhouse Cooper (PwC), Paul’s expertise is in the public sector, and he continues to be closely involved with the business community and government, in the North East, nationally and internationally.