The minimum wage rose from £5.93 per hour to £6.08 on Saturday, an increase of 2.5%.
The minimum wage is decided each year by the Low Pay Committee (LPC). It was introduced in 1999 at £3.60 an hour for adults.
Unions welcomed the increases but warned that wages were still too low. Business groups including the retail consortium called on the LPC to keep in mind the tough economic conditions and the effect of the increases on labour-intensive sectors such as retail as it considered where to set minimum wage levels in 2012.
By Neil Gerrard
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