Your rights at work

Employers in the UK must abide by employment legislation when employing staff. Even if you're only working part time you have the right not to be treated less favourably than a full time member of staff doing the same work. Some of the key issues you should be familar with include:

Pay

National Minimum Wage (NMW)

This is a minimum hourly rate of pay, to which most workers in the UK are entitled. This rate is reviewed every year. The current rate (as from April 2019) is:

  • £6.15 for workers aged between 18 - 20
  • £7.70 for workers aged 21 - 24
  • £8.21 for workers aged 25 and over.

If you have any concerns that you are not being paid the correct rate, you can get confidential help and advice about the NMW. Call 0800 9172368 or find out more at www.gov.uk/national-minimum-wage.

Terms

Statement of terms and conditions 

You should be given a statement of the terms and conditions of your employment within 8 weeks of starting your job. This statement doesn't have to be written - it can also be oral, implied or a mixture of these. It should include information such as your job title, rate of pay, notice period, hours of work, holiday entitlement and  details about pension schemes. Find out more about statement of terms and conditions of employment.

Working Time Regulations (WTR)

The WTR cover many aspects of working hours and help to ensure that employees do not work excessive amounts of time.  The rule most relevant to students is that you are entitled to an uninterrupted break of 20 minutes if your working day is longer than six hours. Read more about your employment rights and the WTR. 

Internships

Your rights as an intern depend on your employment status; you may qualify for at least the National Minimum Wage. There is advice for interns on the Government website.

Discrimination

Discrimination

It is illegal for employers to discriminate against you on the basis of certain characteristics:

  • age
  • disability
  • gender reassignment
  • marriage and civil partnership
  • pregnancy and maternity
  • race
  • religion or belief
  • sex
  • sexual orientation

Further details can be found from the Equality and Human Rights Commission website and TargetJobs Diversity matters.

Health and Safety

Health and Safety

Your employer has a legal responsibility to provide a safe working environment for you and must abide by the Health and Safety at work act which has specifc rules about a number of issues including: cleanliness, lifting and carrying, hours and rests, and machinery.

National Insurance

National Insurance

Workers in the UK make National Insurance (NI) contributions to build up entitlement to certain state benefits.  All workers, including students, are required to have an NI number; how much you pay is calculated on your weekly earnings and is deducted automatically by your employer.

UK citizens are usually issued with a NI number at the age of 16. If you have lost your NI number you should contact the National Insurance Helpline on 0300 200 3500.

Getting a National Insurance number - for non UK students

Important note: You will not be charged for an NI number – it is completely free.
Please do not use any website that charges a fee for this service.

If you are an international or EEA student and want to work in the UK you will need to apply for an NI number once you are in the UK.

You may have a National Insurance Number on the back of your Biometric Residence Permit (2 letters, 6 numbers, 1 letter).  If so, you do not need to apply for one.  If you are not sure, check with the Immigration Advice Service or the Careers and Placements team.

To get an NI number you will need to telephone the National Insurance Number Application line on 0800 141 2075. You will not be charged for the call, however waiting times for an answer can be very long. (If you have hearing or speech difficulties, call the text phone on 0800 141 2438.)

You can expect to be asked these questions:

  • Are you in the UK now?
  • Have you applied for an NI number before?
  • Why do you need an NI number?
  • What is your nationality?

 You will then be asked for the following information:

  • your full name (as in your passport)
  • your date of birth
  • full address and postcode of where you are currently living (check this before you phone)
  • contact telephone and mobile number (this must be a UK mobile number)

You will be invited for an interview at a Jobcentre Plus office.  This is likely to be in York or Leeds.

The purpose of the interview is to check your identity, your status as a student, and check that you have a legal right to work in the UK. You will be told what documents you need to bring with you to your appointment – these may include:

  • Passport and visa (if applicable)/Biometric Residence Permit - EU students can use a national ID card
  • If dual nationality, both passports
  • Police registration certificate (if applicable)
  • Confirmation of your address – bank statement, rental agreement, utility bill, etc.
  • Confirmation of study letter/student card
  • If you are working, name and contact details of employer and other evidence of employment, such as a letter from employer/contract/payslip

It will take a few weeks for your letter containing your National Insurance number to arrive. You are allowed to start work before you receive your NI number, provided you can show an employer you have applied for it.

Tax

Tax

Anyone who works in the UK pays tax if they earn over their personal allowance each year – £12,500 for the period 6 April 2019 – 5 April 2020.

Find out more about how tax is calculated and what to do if you think you need to reclaim overpaid tax. Special rules apply if you work only in official university holiday periods so you should make sure you understand how the tax system works and that you are paying the correct amount. 

Calculate net salary or 'take home pay' with Net salary calculator UK.

Extra information

If you are applying for any of these types of opportunities:-

  • Overseas work
  • Unpaid internships
  • Self-employment / freelance work
  • International students applying for graduate vacancies in the UK.

take a look at our Before you apply pages for some additional information

Read more

The Government website covers a wide range of employment issues.

Further advice from careers professionals working within Higher Education in the UK on key diversity issues including gender, race, disability/mental health, age and more is available on the Targetjobs website.