1 Every person working in the UK must pay National Insurance (NI). Your NI number is used as a reference in your dealings with certain government departments throughout your working life in the UK. Your employer uses your NI number for deductions of tax and NI contributions. Your NI number is not proof of your identity; it looks something like this: AB C. You must not let anyone else use your number. Once you start work you can earn up to 149 per week before you start paying NI contributions. NI is currently charged at 12% on any earnings over this threshold. When do I need to apply for an NI Number? You need a NI number in order to work, claim benefits or receive your student loan. If you are a UK citizen, you should have automatically received an NI number after turning 16. If you didn t receive one and you are under the age of 20, phone the National Insurance Registrations Helpline: If you have lost or forgotten your number, you can check old payslips, a P45 or a P60, which will show your NI number. If you still can t find it, you can phone the National Insurance Registrations Helpline and ask them to trace it. As an international student, how do I apply for an NI number? International students (including students from the EU) need to have an NI to work in the UK. You need to call the National Insurance Number Allocation Service by telephone on this number: or the local rate number It may take a while to get through as it can be a very busy line so keep trying. You should have your postcode and passport with you, as well as the contact details of your employer if you already have a job offer. You will have a brief telephone interview and normally be asked in for an evidenceof-identity interview at a JobCentre near you. You will be told what documents you need to bring with you; these will usually include your passport and visa (if applicable), ID card, proof of address, matriculation card and police registration documents (if this applies). Interviews normally take around 30 minutes and it is important to arrive around 10 minutes early as late arrivals lose their appointment.
2 It takes two to three weeks for you to be assigned an NI number, but you can still apply for jobs and work while you wait for it. You should tell your employer you have applied for an NI number and they can process your wage payments using a code they get from the local tax office. If you have any problems with employers refusing to employ you without an NI number, you can refer them to the Careers Service at the University. At peak times the University Careers service can offer drop-in sessions where you can meet with Jobcentre staff on campus to have your evidence of identity meeting. Check the university website for details. Do I have to pay Income Tax? Students are NOT exempt from paying Income Tax. Every person working in the UK is taxed once their earnings reach a certain level, which is called your personal allowance. This money goes towards government spending on things like transport, health, and education. For the tax year the level is 9,440 a year, which is about 182 a week. Any earnings above this rate are taxed in bands, beginning at the basic rate of 20%. If you are self-employed, you will need to fill out a selfassessment tax return each year to calculate the tax you owe; it is a good idea to budget for this throughout the year. You can view the tax bands and details about selfassessment at You should be given a tax code, which enables your employer to work out how much tax to deduct from your wages. If you are on the wrong tax code you may end up paying too much tax, in which case you can claim it back through HMRC (Her Majesty s Revenue and Customs). Your tax code is on your P45, which you should receive whenever you leave a job, and should then pass on to your new employer. If you don t have a P45, you should request a P46 form. I think I have over paid my income tax, how can I get my excess tax back? Your income tax is calculated based on the assumption you will earn a continuous amount throughout the year, so in some circumstances where you move jobs or stop working you may overpay tax. You should contact HMRC to enquire about your refund and how and when it will be paid; they may have everything they need to process the refund or you may need to complete a form.
3 Useful contacts National Insurance Registrations Helpline Careers Service Tel: HMRC hmrc.gov.uk Her Majesty s Revenue and Customs are the UK s tax authority they are responsible for collecting National Insurance and tax from all employees; they can answer any questions you have about tax.
4 All employees have rights; some of these rights come from law (statutory rights) and some will come from your employment contract. Your employment contract can only add rights on top of your statutory rights, not take them away (some workers have fewer statutory rights, for example agency and freelance workers). As an employee you have a statutory right to: A written employment contract within two months of starting work which includes: Job title Wages Hours of work Holiday entitlement Sick pay Pension schemes Notice and grievance Dismissal and disciplinary procedure An itemised payslip from the date you start your employment which includes: Your gross pay (pay before any tax or national insurance has been taken off) The amounts of any deductions which change from week to week The total amount of any fixed deductions The total amount of take-home pay after deductions Pay which is at least equal to the national minimum wage (NMW) Age Hourly rate 21 and over Under There are a few exceptions to this: employees who live with their employers (such as au pairs) and some trainees and apprentices are not entitled to NMW. A few employers are now making the commitment to pay their employees a living wage, which is currently 7.45 per hour. Tips cannot be counted as contributions to making up your minimum wage (if a tip is added automatically and is compulsory then this is the property of the employer and they can share it out as they wish). Your employer cannot make a deduction from your pay unless it fits one of these categories: It is required by law, for example tax and NI It is allowed for in your employment contract It has been agreed in writing with you You have taken part in a strike You have been overpaid There is a court order or ruling from an employment tribunal
5 There are additional circumstances under which deductions can be made for shop workers; come and see us in the Advice Place for more details. Health and safety Your work environment must be safe and you must be provided with reasonable safety equipment. Freedom from discrimination If you feel that you are being treated differently as a result of your age, race, gender or gender identity, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, disability, or religion, you should come and speak with an adviser as soon as possible: you have a right to work free from discrimination. Paid holidays If you work part time you should get a pro rata holiday allowance. The rights to holidays can be complicated so you if you are unsure come and see an adviser. Breaks and hours You have a right to at least a 20 minute break if your work day is over six hours, 11 consecutive hours of break in between shifts and one day off a week (if you are under 18 you have the right to 30 minutes every 4.5 hours, 12 hours of consecutive rest and two days off a week). Nearly all employees have the right to not be required to work more than an average of 48 hours in a week; night shift workers cannot average more than 8 hours in a 24 hours period. Sick leave If you are earning more than 109 a week, you are entitled to statutory sick pay; in addition to statutory sick pay you may get contractual sick pay (this will be detailed in your contract). Notice of dismissal If you have worked for your employer for over one month- even if you have no contractyou still have the right to a reasonable dismissal period; the law is very complicated and you should seek expert advice as soon as you can if you are concerned.
6 Trade Unions You have a statutory right to form or join a Trade Union; this means that you are part of an organisation that will support you in negotiating with your employer and will represent you in grievance or disciplinary proceedings. You cannot be legally dismissed by your employer as a result of union membership. Joining a union means agreeing to pay a membership fee. You usually agree to have money deducted from your pay to cover your union membership fee, or you can pay your union directly (your employer is not legally required to organise payments to your union unless it is explicitly stated in your contract). Your rights with regards to freedom from harassment remain the same in this circumstance as in any other; should you feel you are facing unfair treatment by your employer, colleagues or union, come and see us for advice so we can support you in getting expert help. If you are not in a union, you still have all the same rights. Time off for union duties If you are a member, you have the right to time off for union duties (though this does not have to be paid). You also have the right to be accompanied to any grievance or disciplinary meetings. If you choose to take part in properly organised industrial action and you are dismissed as a result this will be automatically classed as unfair dismissal. The advantages of being in a Trade Union are that you will have someone to represent you if it becomes necessary and your union can help to protect your rights and ensure you are treated fairly; they can also offer you advice. You are not bound to take your Union s advice if you do not want to. In some circumstances your union may call for industrial action (a strike); you will always be given the chance to vote on this and you do not have to participate in the strike if you do not want to. If you do choose to strike you will not be paid. Strike action can be quite contentious, since it is an issue about which individuals may have strongly held views. Resolving problems at work You would usually seek resolution to any problems by first informally raising the issue with your employer. If this is not successful, you would follow your employer s grievance procedure; usually this involves writing formally to your employer, then meeting with them to discuss the issue. If your employer then makes a decision you are not happy with, you can appeal. If you remain unhappy, you can take the case to an employment tribunal; you usually have three months minus one day from the date when the last event you are complaining about happened. Employment law and grievances can be
7 complicated, so we would always advise you to seek specialist help. This is not a conclusive list of your rights. If you are concerned about anything at work, come and speak with an adviser in the Advice Place or the Citizens Advice Bureau Useful contacts Union finder This site will help you to identify which union you may wish to join according to your industry; they also have detailed information on employment rights. Unite Unite are a general union for all employees who operate on a local level. ACAS Tel: The Advice, Conciliation and Arbitration Service provide expert advice on employment rights and disputes. EASS Tel: Monday to Friday 9am to 8pm, Saturday 10am to 2pm The Equality Advisory Support Service (EASS) helpline is for people who may have experienced discrimination in employment, housing, education, transport and any other goods and services. Legal Aid (ABWOR) Tel: Assistance by Way of Representation is the method by which you would secure legal aid for representation by solicitor at a tribunal. Free Legal Advice Centre Tel: Legal advice from a currently studying law student supported by a qualified solicitor, they do not offer representation. Citizens Advice Edinburgh There are five offices in Edinburgh; check their website for opening hours. They offer specialist advice on employment rights.