Complete guide to working in the United Kingdom

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Millions of Europeans have immigrated to the United Kingdom for work, in search of better job opportunities for the future. If you’re one of them, or you’ve briefly thought about taking that step, this is where I explain and summarize everything you need to know to make finding a job in the UK easier.

What documentation do I need?

If you’re a member of the European Union, you don’t need any kind of visa or permission to work. Not even your passport, although it’s useful. You just arrive and ask for your NIN.

So even if you wanted to fly out tomorrow, you could already start to look for a job without any problems.

How do I get my NIN?

The famous NIN is the National Insurance Number. It’s the registration number for all workers in the United Kingdom, equivalent to a social security and national ID number, which is used for health, workers’ contributions, and processing taxes.

What’s the minimum salary in the United Kingdom?

As of October 2015, the wage per hour is set at £6.70 for those 21 years old and over.

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But from April 2016 on, the “National Living Wage” of £7.20 an hour will be introduced for workers older than 25. Those who are 24 or younger will continue to make £6.70 an hour.

How much tax do I pay for my work in the UK?

In general, taxes on workers for their jobs are quite simple. 11% of your salary is deducted for your NIN. Until you reach £10,600 per year, you just pay for health insurance. From that amount on, you pay 20% of whatever is left over for PAYE.

Your net salary:

Tax Code: calculate your net salary in the UK

What kind of work contract can I get?

If, like many, you are coming for “whatever you find” and it’s in the service sector, on most occasions they tend to be unstable per-hour or temporary contracts. These are the different kinds of contracts in the United Kingdom:

  • Permanent: Sometimes the least common for European immigrates, this is the “fixed”, or what we might call the “indefinite”, contract. It provides more security than the others, but doesn’t protect you from getting fired any more than the others, as for the first two years there is no “compensation for dismissal”. Still, it specifies more stable hours and conditions for the worker.
  • Part-time: The most common among students and foreigners who work in pubs, restaurants, etc. They tend to be for 15 to 25 hours a week at minimum wage.
  • Zero Hours: This is the same as the one before but without the guarantee of a stable number of working hours every week. Total flexibility and uncertainty.
  • Contractor: These are people who work on their own or as “freelancers” like engineers, accountants, lawyers, etc. They tend to be well-paid because of their association with highly specialized and sought after professions.
  • Voluntary: If you don’t find any of the above, but you want to get more experience for your CV, this is the way. Volunteer work is well-regarded throughout the country.

How do I start looking for work?

The Internet is a good way to start checking the job market for your sector or specialty. Here are some ways to look for work in the United Kingdom:

1. Agencies: If you put the magic words “job recruitment” into the Google search engine, along with the name of the city you’d like to live in, you’ll get dozens of agencies that will help you find work. But remember that they work on commission and, at the end of the day, they’re agencies.
2. Newspapers and magazines: It seems old-fashioned, but it isn’t! Paper journals still publish job offers, but now most of their websites have a job offer section too: The Times, The Daily Telegraph, Financial Times, The Independent, and The Guardian. Look at these websites, especially the local media, there are always interesting announcements.
3. Career fairs: In the United Kingdom there are lots of “career fairs” throughout the country during the year. Print CVS and check out the stalls. A useful website:
4. Chambers of commerce: The “Chambers” provide many services related to work, training, and information about different sectors. Find the one closest to you at
5. JobCentre Plus: The job search centres here are very well organized and receive hundreds of offers every week. Stop by the one near you:

You should also read:

How many days of vacation are there?

You get 5.6 weeks (including weekends, or 28 working days (based on a five-day week) per year. If you work by the hour, you holidays will accumulate proportionally as you continue working.

Are the workers’ rights very different?

No, the UK has similar rights regarding vacations, schedules, dismissal, etc. as many other countries. The main difference is when it comes to money. In some places you get more compensation for the termination of employment or sick leave.

In the United Kingdom, there are weekly limitations for the “Job Seeker’s Allowance” and “Sick Pay”: £73.10 and £88.45 per week, respectively. Which isn’t a lot, so that’s why I recommend you read the following:

Can I work in “my” field?

Leaving aside the question of your level of English, for most professions you can find a position without any additional bureaucratic problems. Except in a few sectors that are more difficult to enter because you have to adjust to British system.

From my own experience, I’d say that in the United Kingdom it tends to be most difficult to work as a lawyer, psychologist, etc, given the differences in certification between the UK and other countries. As for more “general” professions like engineering, IT, teaching, design, etc., it’s a question of demand, as it is everywhere.

Our guides to specific sectors:

What if I want to be self-employed? How do I do it? Is it easy?

Very quick and easy. At any point, you can call yourself a business for 15 pounds or register yourself as “self-employed”. The process is usually clear and the fees are low.

All the steps to entrepreneurship in the UK:

What do I do when I want to go back home?

Whether you spend 10 years or three months in the United Kingdom, all the work and fees figure into what you’ve done back home in Europe. You just have to request the correct documentation that certifies it.

Do you have any other questions? Feel free to leave a comment!

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