The Comprehensive Guide To Your Salary

Last Updated on 4th April 2023 by Sophie Elvins-Payne

The Comprehensive Guide To Your Salary

This past year, we have all been bombarded by the news coverage of inflation, rising energy costs, the cost of living crisis, strikes by multiple unions over pay, and more.

With these rapid increases in costs and much greater scrutiny on wages, rates of pay, and more there is a greater need to understand what you will be paid, why you will be paid it, and what you can do to negotiate a better pay packet.

This guide will stay up to date on all wage announcements, what you’re entitled to, and provide help and resources to what you need to understand what you’re paid and how to get more of it.

National minimum and living wage

Before we even start this section, we need to let you know the difference between “national minimum wage” and “national living wage”. 

Basically, it all comes down to your age and if you’re an apprentice or not.

The National Minimum Wage is the minimum pay per hour almost all workers are entitled to. The National Living Wage is higher than the National Minimum Wage – workers get it if they’re over 23.

It does not matter how small an employer is, they still have to pay the correct minimum wage.

From April 2023, the National Living Wage is £10.42 for anyone over the age of 23 and the National Minimum Wage is £7.49 for those aged 18 and over.

The National Living Wage changes every year on April 1st. Until that date, you will be on the previous year’s standards. 

Below are the current wage brackets per hour:

  • Aged 23+: £10.42
  • Aged 21-22: £10.18
  • Aged 18-20: £7.49
  • Under 18: £5.28
  • Apprentices: £5.28

To double-check if you are getting at least the minimum wage you can use the government wage calculator.

Remember this is the absolute minimum you will receive per hour. Different industries and sectors will have different rates of pay, however, they should all be above this standard.

If you think you’re being underpaid then there are people you can call.


Be careful though, if you are an apprentice things are a bit different. 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


An apprentice aged 21 in the first year of their apprenticeship is entitled to a minimum hourly rate of £5.28.

Apprentices are entitled to the minimum wage for their age if they both:

  • are aged 19 or over
  • have completed the first year of their apprenticeship


An apprentice aged 21 who has completed the first year of their apprenticeship is entitled to a minimum hourly rate of £10.18.

So please understand that your first year as an apprentice could pay you very little compared to the National Living Wage.

ACAS helpline and other resources

If you find that you’re earning less than you’re entitled to you can get in touch with the ACAS helpline and ask for advice, or even make a confidential complaint.

You can:

  • Use the ACAS Helpline Online to ask questions
  • Call the ACAS helpline
    • Telephone: 0300 123 1100
    • Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm
    • Saturday, 9am to 1pm

The Real Living Wage

Whilst there is the National Living Wage which is mandatory and protected by the government, there is an external body that a lot of employers have signed up for; the Living Wage Foundation.

The Real Living Wage is based on the cost of living and is voluntarily paid by over 12,000 UK employers who believe we all need a wage that meets everyday needs.

So much so the rate is calculated by the cost of living and even has a dedicated weighting for the most expensive city there is, London.

Currently, the Real Living wage is £10.90 per hour for the majority of the UK with London being at the adjusted £11.95 per hour.

As mentioned, it is a completely voluntary scheme so your employer might not have signed up for it. However, the businesses that do sign up for the scheme can be looked up on the official register or you can recognise them by the badge.

As such you know you will receive a higher wage than the National Living Wage, and that it is, by their calculations, more in keeping with what the cost of living is.

Negotiating your pay

We all want to be paid what we’re worth and too often, those who deserve a pay raise never ask for one. It could be for fear of criticism, fear of refusal, or even fear of being sacked because you asked.

If you’ve been offered a job, it’s important to negotiate your salary before you accept. Although this can be an uncomfortable subject to approach, you want to get the salary you deserve.

Likewise, when you are in a role and are looking to develop in it you will want to make sure that you are getting the right money for your effort, skills, and experience.

Talking about money can feel uncomfortable at times when it comes to your wages but negotiating will only lead to a better result.

We have a much more in-depth process with a step-by-step breakdown of how to negotiate your salary if you want to read it.

There are a lot of ways, methods, and tips available out there with a quick Google search. However, it all comes down to 3 steps:

  1. Research your job, your salary, and your industry
  2. Consider the responsibilities and volume of work you regularly, write it down
  3. Decide on a figure or a range, then create and practice your pitch
  4. Do your pitch.

Whilst this is obviously a simplified version of what you should do, it covers the main key points you’ll need to negotiate.

Also, don’t forget things to negotiate other than your salary. What about flexible working? What about learning opportunities or tuition funds? These can feed into your personal development plan and provide a distinct advantage.

Remember negotiating your salary is not only for new jobs, you can use it for a pay rise, so regularly review your position and see if you should ask.

Making the most of your money

As we’ve mentioned already the cost of living and inflation have made being careful with your money a top priority. No matter what you are being paid, being savvy with every penny counts.

So when it comes to your money, your rights with money and jobs, and all things finance you can use something such as MoneyHelper (what was the Money Advice Service) or Money Saving Expert for advice, guides, calculators and more.

Summing Up

Money will always be a difficult subject to talk about, but it’s needed to help you progress in your career.

Talking about money, understanding what you are entitled to, and how to get negotiate for more of it will serve you well in the long run.

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