Living or minimum wages: what do you have to pay in 2018?

Updated – Dec 2018

What’s the difference between a Minimum Wage and a Living Wage? Well, it depends who you ask.

There’s a compulsory Living Wage all employers have to pay, although critics say that just changed the name of the Minimum Wage – and it’s lower than the “real but voluntary” Living Wage.

Currently, employers have to pay a minimum of £7.83 an hour for any employees over 25. There are lower minimum pay levels for people under 21 – currently £7.38 per hour – and for younger employees.

There is also a voluntary Living Wage campaign, which might change name to avoid confusion with the compulsory Living Wage. That’s currently £9 an hour outside London and £10.55 an hour in London.

So far, so confusing. Let’s set out what this means in terms of pay and start with the compulsory amounts, which depend on how long your working week is:

  • 25 and older: £7.83 an hour is an annual salary of £15,268.50 for a 37.5-hour working week (usually 7.5-hour days) and £16,286.40 for a 40-hour working week (8-hour days)
  • Aged 21-24 £7.38 an hour means salaries of around £14,400-£15,350.
  • Aged 18-20 £5.90 an hour involves £11,500-£12,272 pay levels.
  • Under 18 £4.20 an hour means you pay salaries of £8,190-£8,736.
  • Apprentices £3.70 an hour means salaries of £7,215-£7,700.

So what does all this mean in reality? From April each year, the minimum legal pay levels increase although the details are not known until close to the time. Retail, catering and hospitality employers are raising concerns about having to increase pay levels every year.

The “real” Living Wage at £9 involves paying everyone aged older than 18 salaries of £17,550-£18,720 depending on the length of your working week.

If you pay everyone at least £18,720, then you can get recognition for this by signing up to the “real” Living Wage at It’s free, only takes a few minutes and means you get credit for being a good payer for prospective new recruits.

Thanks to Brian Warren for sharing his blog with us. Brian is an HR Consultant at Quick HR, a Human Resources agency based in Brighton and Haywards Heath, covering Sussex and the South-East.