The government’s Find A Job service is a good place to start looking for work. It includes employers who have signed up to the ‘Disability Confident’ scheme that will support people who are disabled or have long-term health conditions.
A CV is the British word for a resume. A CV should be no more than 2 pages long. It should show contact details, employment history, education, key skills, references and a short mention of interests. There are many examples online.
Make sure you get it checked for grammar and spelling before sending it. Be aware that American English is different to British English and some words are spelt differently.
Some industries (for example, communications or creative) are not so interested in CVs. Instead, they want to see evidence of your previous work across social media and the internet.
In many public sector jobs, application forms are used instead of CVs.
Graduate career website Prospects has a lot of advice about CVs.
The National Living Wage is the lowest amount you can be paid per hour. The exact amount depends on your age and whether you are an apprentice. Since April 2019, the National Living Wage is £8.72 per hour for people aged 25 and over.
If you are over 25, it is usually illegal to be paid less than the National Living Wage, even if you are:
working for one day
working for an agency
an agricultural worker
a foreign worker
working from home
If you are aged 21-24, the National Minimum Wage is £8.20 per hour. There are other rates for apprentices and younger age groups.
The National Living Wage is not always high enough to meet living costs. A charity called the Living Wage Foundation has calculated that a more realistic amount is £10.75/hour in London and £9.30/hour in the rest of the UK (in 2020). They call this the ‘Real Living Wage’.
The Living Wage Foundation encourages businesses to pay their workers at least the Real Living Wage. Over 5,000 employers have joined the scheme.
Doing work experience (also called an ‘internship’) for a company is a popular way to build up skills and learn more about an industry. Sometimes companies advertise for interns. At other times, you might be successful if you ask them directly.
By law, interns should get paid at least the National Minimum Wage unless they are under 16, or they are students doing the work as part of an educational course, for less than 1 year.
The only other exceptions are for charity work or if the intern is just watching someone else.
People working full-time (5 days a week, or equivalent) must get at least 28 days’ paid holiday every year. This is the same as 5.6 weeks.
This includes agency workers, workers on ‘zero hours’ contracts and workers who don’t have a set pattern of hours. People working part-time have their holiday time scaled down. For example, if you work 2 full days a week, you must get at least 2 x 5.6 = 11.2 days’ holiday.
Public holidays might be part of your holiday time. There are usually 8 public holidays in England and Wales. There are 9 in Scotland.
Read more about paid holiday rights on the main government website. The page also has a useful calculator to help you work out how much holiday you should get, even if you only work a few hours a week.
‘Employees’ who are ill for more than 4 days in a row, including non-working days, can get Statutory Sick Pay from their employer for up to 28 weeks. Your employer does not usually have to pay you for the first 4 days you are ill**.
People who are ‘workers’ do not always get Statutory Sick Pay (see the question below to find out the difference between employees and workers).
Statutory Sick Pay is about £95 a week, although some employers pay more. After 28 weeks, there is no law about getting money, although some employers are generous.
**Because of the covid-19 coronavirus epidemic, you might now get sick pay from the first day you are ill or quarantining, if it is related to coronavirus. There might also be payments if you are a ‘worker’ rather than ’employee’.
In employment law, there are differences between ’employees’, ‘workers’ and ‘self-employed contractors’. This is called your ’employment status’ and differences affect the rights that you have – but there are no exact definitions. It usually depends on your actual work and working relationship with your employer.
Employees are generally people who do regular work for their employer and have a manager and contract. Employees have the highest number of rights. These include the national minimum wage, holidays, sick pay, redundancy pay, time off when having a child, time off for emergencies and the right to ask for flexible working. Employees also have protection from ‘unfair dismissal’ (asked to leave the job for no good reason). Some of these rights only come after working for a set amount of time or when earning over a certain level.
Workers might also have a contract with their employer (it doesn’t have to be written), but the work is usually more casual and occasional than for an employee. Workers have the right to the national minimum wage, holidays and rest breaks. They might also be able to get time off when sick or having a child. However, they do not have any protection against being asked to leave the job and do not have the right to redundancy pay or time off for emergencies.
Agency workers are people who get jobs through a company that arranges workers. This might include models and people who do regular temporary work in offices or other businesses. Agency workers have ‘worker’ status and should be able to use workplace facilities. They are entitled to sick pay. If they work more than 12 weeks at the same workplace they should get the same benefits as employees.
Self-employed contractors do not get employment rights (such as sick pay or holiday) because they are their own boss. This means they can choose when and where to work and can even hire someone else to do it. Often they will agree to do a job for a set price, rather than getting paid hourly.
It is usually illegal to treat someone unfairly because of their age, race, religion or belief, sexuality, disability, gender (sex), marriage/civil partnership, sexual orientation or because they pregnant or are on maternity leave. There are some exceptions, usually because of the type of job (for example, pregnancy and working with toxic chemicals).
There are different types of unfair treatment. Examples of ‘direct discrimination’ are unequal pay or bullying. There can also be ‘indirect discrimination’ – where the rules or arrangements within a company mean that group of people are treated unfairly.
The independent organisation ACAS can help you understand workplace law and your rights. You must tell ACAS if you want to take your employer to court.
Join a trade union. Britain has a large number of unions, representing many different workers.
This situation is more difficult if you are working illegally. However, you might still be able to get help. Speak to the charity Citizens Advice.
If you are working for very low (or no) pay and are frightened to leave your job, you might be a victim of modern slavery. Contact the police on 999. The police will help you and can protect you. If you prefer not to call the police, the charity Salvation Army has a 24hr telephone helpline: 0300 0038 151.
Both parents of a child might be able to get time off work when a baby is born (or if they adopt a child). The main government website has an online calculator that can tell parents how much time off (called ‘leave’) and pay they could get. It is quick and easy to use.
You can also read more about this topic in the FAMILY & PETS section.
Everyone who has paid National Insurance for over 10 years should get some amount of State Pension.
If you are over 22 and you are employed and paid more than £10,000 a year, you should normally have some of your wages paid into a workplace pension. This is called Automatic Enrolment. The minimum is 8% of earnings between £6,136 and £50,000. The money comes as a mix from your employer, your wages and government tax relief.
Some employers have different schemes that pay more. Speak to your employer for advice. The Pensions Advisory Service can also give advice about workplace pensions.
If you are self-employed, you will need to set up your own pension.
See the MONEY & TAX section for more details about pensions.
You have to prove you are allowed to work if you want a job in the UK. This is called the ‘right to work’. You can prove it by showing your passport, biometric residence card (and visa, if applicable), or by using the Online Checking Service. You must do this before you are given the job.
British citizens have an automatic right to work in the UK. People with Indefinite Leave to Remain or Settled Status usually have the right to work here too.
EU citizens and citizens of Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland are allowed to work under standard European rules until 30 June 2021. After that, there are different rules, depending on how long you have been in the UK.
For anyone else, the right to work usually depends on your visa. This will influence the type of work you can do and how many hours you can work per week.
National Insurance is a type of tax. You usually need a National Insurance (NI) number before you start work.
Children who live in the UK are usually sent their number on their 16th birthday.
If you have a biometric residence permit (BRP), you will find the number on the back.
If you have just moved to the UK, you can start work without a NI number as long as you can prove you have the ‘right to work’. You will need to apply for the NI as soon as you arrive in the UK. You might need to have an interview.
Having an NI number does not, by itself, prove you have the right to work in the UK.
It is possible for many overseas qualifications or skills to be recognised in the UK, for example:
exams and diplomas
experience with children 0-5
There is one official national agency responsible for providing information and advice: The UK NARIC (National Recognition Information Centre). They can also help with an assessment of your English language skills.
You need to pay for the service, but multiple qualifications can be included for the same price.
There are 2 main parts to the NARIC website, depending on what you need:
‘Hot desking’ means you do not have your own desk – you just use one that is available. This is often in companies that don’t have a set number of people in the office every day, in order to save space.
In some offices, it is OK to stay at the desk for several days. In others, you are expected to move every day. It is polite to clear the desk completely at the end of the day.
When people resign from their job or are made redundant, they usually have to work 1 month or more before they can start another job. This is called the ‘notice period’.
Some companies prefer that people do not work during the notice period. This is usually because the person might know sensitive commercial information.
The person who is leaving has to stop work, but they still get paid until the end of the notice period. This is known as ‘gardening leave’ – probably because a lot of people stay home and enjoy their garden.
If you are self employed and your business is not a ‘limited company’, then you are known as a ‘sole trader’. There are some advantages, but one of the main disadvantages is that you are personally liable for any losses within the business. This means you could even lose your home or become bankrupt if there were very big losses.
Companies House is the official register of companies in the UK, including limited partnerships and PLCs. There is no charge to check basic information, like the registered address, details of directors and accounts.
The amount of information available depends on the size of the company.
Businesses that are registered for VAT (value added tax) are able to claim back any VAT paid by the business when buying products or services. However, they must also charge VAT on their own products or services.
You must register for VAT once your business sells £85,000 a year of products or services (if they are not VAT-exempt), or if you expect to sell more than £85,000-worth in the next 30 days.
There are also some other situations where you need to register. You can also register voluntarily.