UK labour law: Employment contracts and wages in the UK

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If you’re looking to work in the UK, here’s a guide to employment contracts and remuneration in the UK.

UK employment contracts

All employees are entitled to a contract of employment that forms the basis of the employment relationship. The Employment Rights Act 1996 requires employers to provide most employees, within two calendar months of starting work, with a written statement of the main terms of the contract. The following details must be included in the written statement:

  • employers and employees names;
  • job title or job description;
  • date the employment began, place of work and address of employer;
  • amount of pay and interval between payments;
  • hours of work, holiday pay and sick pay entitlements;
  • pension arrangements;
  • notice period;
  • grievance and appeal arrangements;
  • disciplinary rules or dismissal procedures.

Over the years, employees have become entitled to a wide range of statutory rights, derived from parliamentary acts and regulations that affect the employment relationship. In general they cannot be waived and include the right:

  • to equal pay;
  • for participation in trade union activities;
  • to return to work after pregnancy or childbirth;
  • to apply for flexible working arrangements and parental leave;
  • not to be discriminated against;
  • not to be unfairly dismissed.

Your employment contract is an important document. You must ensure you read it carefully and understand it before signing.

Amendment of UK job contracts

Most changes to an employment contract need the agreement of the employee and employer. You can agree this either verbally or in writing; written consent is better as it can avoid further disagreements.

Leaving your UK job

If an employer asks you to leave your job, they must give you a minimum period of notice and, likewise, you must give your employer a minimum period of notice if you want to leave. The length of notice you have to give depends on how long you have been in the job, but if the employer fails to give the required notice, the employee can make a claim to the courts for wrongful dismissal.

Where the employee leaves without serving the required notice period, the employer may have a right to withhold pay or claim damages. There are times when no notice is needed, for example if the dismissal is for gross misconduct or where constructive dismissal occurs.

If you feel you have been unfairly dismissed, ask for advice from the ACAS helpline (08457 474747). ACAS mediate between employers and employees. Official complaints of unfair dismissal must be made within three months of leaving the job.


Workers in the UK are legally entitled to be paid the national minimum wage per hour for the work that they do. The minimum wage for each age group is GBP 3.57 for 16- to 17-year-olds, GBP 4.83 (‘development rate’) for 18- to 21-year-olds and GBP 5.80 for over 22s. These rates change on 1 October each year.

Apprentices under the age of 19 are not entitled to the minimum wage. If you are receiving accredited training during the first six months of your new employment, you may only be paid the 18-21 ‘development rate’.

You will normally be paid either each week or each month. Many employers will arrange for your pay to be sent directly to your bank account.

By law, you should also receive a pay slip each time you are paid. This is a statement from your employer showing your exact pay and how much has been deducted for National Insurance and tax.

Employers are legally allowed to make deductions from your wages for Income Tax, Pay as You Earn (PAYE) and National Insurance contributions. Any other deductions made such as contributions to pension schemes have to be agreed with you first. If you believe you aren’t receiving the minimum wage you can contact the National Minimum Wage Helpline (0845 6000 678).


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