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National minimum wage increases to £6.50 per hour

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The national minimum wage increases by 19p to £6.50 per hour for people aged 21 and over today (1 October 2014).

For 18- to 20-year-olds the rate changes from £5.03 per hour to £5.13. For 16- and 17-year-olds there is a rise of 7p to £3.79 per hour, while minimum apprenticeship rates see a 5p increase, bringing them to £2.73.

The improvements are based on advice given by the Low Pay Commission (LPC) in March of this year to increase the minimum wage by a higher rate than inflation for the first time since 2008.

Secretary for business, innovation and skills Vince Cable said the level was set to ensure the lowest paid get a fair wage "without costing jobs".

"I believe it is vital that the Low Pay Commission’s recommendations, not political considerations, should set national minimum wage rates," he said. "As signs of a stronger economy start to emerge, we need to do more to make sure that the benefits of growth are shared fairly across the board."

Equal pay audits introduced

From today any company that loses an equal pay or sex discrimination case will be exposed to a full equal pay audit.

KPMG performance, reward and employee engagement specialist Ingrid Waterfield told HR magazine the legislation will be positive in "kickstarting the discussion about equal pay". But she has reservations about how effective it is as a solitary measure.

"The numbers alone don't tell the whole story," she said. "Individual figures can be misleading. We should focus on getting clear reward structures embedded and talking about the culture of equal pay."