Policy and legal background
2 Since 1 April 1999 all relevant workers in the United Kingdom have had a right to receive the National Minimum Wage (NMW). The NMW was introduced by the National Minimum Wage Act 1998 ("the 1998 Act"). The NMWA contains the basic structure of the statutory scheme, but is supplemented by regulations which establish matters such as rates of the NMW and details of eligibility.
3 Section 1(2) of the 1998 Act provides that a worker is entitled to the NMW if he or she is working or ordinarily works in the United Kingdom and has ceased to be of compulsory school age. Section 54(3) defines "worker" in the same way as in section 230(3) of the Employment Rights Act 1996. However, sections 34-45 of the 1998 Act make provision for specific groups to be included in, or excluded from, qualifying for the NMW. Section 41 gives power to the Secretary of State to make regulations to apply the NMW to other groups of people as if they were workers.
4 Section 3 of the 1998 Act allows the Secretary of State, by regulations, to make certain groups of people eligible for a lower minimum hourly rate or exclude them from the NMW entirely. Those groups include anyone who has not yet reached the age of 26.
5 Since 1 April 2016, the main rate of the NMW, under regulation 4 of the National Minimum Wage Regulations 2015 (S.I. 2015/621), has applied to workers aged 25 and over and been known as the "National Living Wage". Regulation 4A sets lower rates of minimum wage for people who are aged 21-24, 18-20 and under 18 and for certain apprentices.
6 Terms such as "internship", "work placement" and "work experience" currently have no distinct legal status. An individual undertaking such a scheme may be entitled to the NMW if they are encompassed by the definition of "worker" – for example by being contractually obliged to perform work in return for regular remunation - or qualify for one of the groups specifically included.
7 The Unpaid Work Experience (Prohibition) Bill [HL] 2017-19, which had identical effective contents to this Bill, was introduced to the House of Lords by Lord Holmes of Richmond on 27 June 2017 and passed all its stages in that House. It was taken up by Alec Shelbrooke MP in the House of Commons, but was not debated. Lord Holmes has introduced an identical Bill to the House of Lords in this Session.