The value of work is intrinsically linked to its monetary equivalent expressed in wages. Changes in wage laws therefore impact a wide-ranging frontier of tensions inherent in the politics around remuneration, at the individual, the firm and the state level. In other words, wages do not form a single line of conflict, but in fact matters of payment unfold multiple struggles in the spheres of institutions, at the shop-floor and within the household. From this three-fold perspective, the paper analyses unraveling tensions in the economic, legal and socio-political constitution of wages in the Indian Wage Code of 2019. This evaluation shows the importance of strengthening need-based approaches to wages such as minimum wage policies, not just to facilitate decent working standards, but also to guarantee adequate social safety nets, particularly in times of crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic.