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Employment contract in UK

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Introduction to Employment Contracts in the United Kingdom

The United Kingdom has strict labor legislation that guarantees substantial rights and protections for workers. One of the primary elements of this legislation is the employment contract, which outlines the terms of the employment relationship between the employer and the employee.

Every year, many Italians decide to leave their homeland and move to the United Kingdom in pursuit of a better future. However, quite often, many of us venture into this new territory without a clear understanding of the differences in the world of work compared to Italy.

In this article, we will explore the details of employment contracts in the United Kingdom and how they safeguard the rights of workers.

Let’s start with the essential information. To be valid, a UK employment contract must specify the employer’s name, their address, and the employee’s name. Further details are outlined below.

  • Temporary contract: contratto temporaneo, spesso usato per i seasonal jobs, per esempio durante le vacanze natalizie, quando i negozi hanno bisogno di più personale. E’ possibile che, una volta terminato il periodo festivo, ti sia offerta una posizione permanente;
  • Fixed term contract: contratto a durata determinata, simile ai temporary contracts, nel quale deve essere chiaramente indicata la data di inizio e fine lavoro;
  • Permanent contract: contratto a durata indeterminata;
  • Zero Hour contract: contratto a zero ore, che non garantisce un lavoro regolare con un numero di ore a settimana fisso. Il datore di lavoro ti richiede dei turni di lavoro che tu puoi accettare o meno.

Se decidi di lavorare per conto proprio (self employed o freelance), dovrai dichiarare la tua attività e pagare te stesso le tasse.

Types of Employment Contracts in the United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, there are various types of employment contracts. The primary contracts include fixed-term contracts and permanent contracts, but there are also variations. The first is used for workers who are hired for a specific period, while the second is for full-time employees in a permanent position.

Your contract can fall into one of the following categories:

  • Temporary contract: This is a temporary contract, often used for seasonal jobs, such as during the holiday season when stores require additional staff. It’s possible that, after the holiday period ends, a permanent position may be offered.
  • Fixed-term contract: This is a fixed-term contract, similar to temporary contracts, where the start and end dates of employment must be clearly specified.
  • Permanent contract: This is an indefinite-term employment contract, indicating a long-term commitment between the employer and the employee.
  • Zero Hour contract: This type of contract does not guarantee a regular workload with a fixed number of hours per week. Instead, the employer offers work shifts, and it’s up to the employee whether to accept them.

If you decide to work for yourself as self-employed or freelance, you will need to register your business and manage your own tax affairs.


By law, workers in England must receive at least a minimum wage, known as the “minimum wage.”

The annual increase is determined by the government to ensure a suitable minimum wage for workers in the United Kingdom, aiming to improve their living conditions. It’s important to note that the minimum wage can vary depending on the region, occupation, and age, so it’s advisable to verify with a trade union or the government for further information.

(Minimum wage starting from April 2023)

  • Apprentice: £5.28 per hour
  • Under 18: £5.28 per hour
  • 18 to 20 years old: £7.49 per hour
  • 21 to 22 years old: £10.18 per hour
  • 23 years and older: £10.42 per hour
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From the age of 25, it is no longer referred to as the minimum wage, but rather as the “national living wage,” which currently amounts to £8.72 per hour. There is also the “living wage,” currently set at £10.75 for London and £9.30 for the rest of the United Kingdom. The living wage is established by the Living Wage Foundation, which calculates the cost of living in the UK and determines how much a person should be paid to live properly. It’s the only wage that distinguishes between the cost of living in the capital and the rest of the country, but unlike the minimum wage and the national living wage, employers are not obligated to adhere to it.

The minimum wage is updated every April. You can view a table with all the information about the minimum wage on this website.

In England, your compensation is determined based on your position (team leader, manager, CEO, etc.), but there is no guaranteed minimum wage according to your job level, as is the case in Italy. Let’s take the example of a Store Manager in London: a Google search suggests that the salary is around £28,000 per year. It’s highly likely that if you receive a job offer for a similar position, your annual salary will be around that amount, but keep in mind that nothing prevents the company from paying you less.

The method of payment varies significantly depending on the job: It can be weekly, biweekly, or monthly and may be paid through bank transfer or in cash (less frequently). Most people have an annual employment contract, while others, especially in the retail sector, are paid hourly. At the end of the month, the worker receives a payslip (either paper or electronic) listing the number of hours worked, the salary, and the deducted taxes. Those earning less than £12,750 annually are exempt from taxes (for the year 2022-2023).

If you work with targets (common in sales and recruitment), you will receive a minimum fixed wage each month, plus commissions if you achieve your targets.

Unlike Italy, England does not have a 13th or 14th-month salary, but in various companies, it’s customary to receive a year-end bonus.

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How to Negotiate an Employment Contract in the United Kingdom

Negotiating an employment contract in the United Kingdom is a crucial step to secure the best possible terms for your future position. This process may seem intimidating, but with the right preparation and knowledge, you can engage in effective negotiation.

First and foremost, it’s essential to conduct thorough research on the working conditions in your industry and the specific role for which you are about to be hired. Find out what the average salary is for your position, taking into account regional differences and your qualifications. There are numerous online resources, such as government websites or industry reports, that provide reliable salary data.

When presented with a contract, don’t be afraid to carefully examine it and, if necessary, make requests or negotiate the details. Here are some key aspects to consider during the negotiation process:

  • Salary: This is often the focal point of negotiations. If you believe that the offered salary is below your expectations or the market value for your role, prepare a strong argument based on your experience, qualifications, and market research. Clearly ask for a raise or a more competitive salary.
  • Additional Benefits: In addition to the base salary, consider what additional benefits are included in the package. These may include meal vouchers, pension contributions, insurance coverage, and other perks. Inquire if it’s possible to enhance these aspects or if there are other benefits that can be negotiated.
  • Working Hours: Discuss your working hours, including vacation days and rest days. Inquire about how overtime hours are regulated and what the company’s policies are regarding work-life balance.
  • Probation Period: If the contract includes a probationary period, ensure that you understand its duration and conditions. Ask if there are specific rules during this period and how your performance will be evaluated.
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Remember that the negotiation process should be an open and respectful dialogue between you and your prospective employer. Clearly express your expectations and listen to the other party. In some cases, the company may not be able to fulfill all your requests, but the negotiation will provide you with a better understanding of the offered package.

Once an agreement is reached, make sure that all details are clearly stated in the written contract. This includes salary, benefits, working conditions, and any special clauses. Once the contract is signed, both parties will be legally bound by its terms.

How to Write a British CV

Writing a British CV requires a specific format. Ensure that you include relevant information such as your work experience, qualifications, and skills. Take into account the differences compared to an Italian CV. For a detailed guide on how to write a British CV, you can refer to the article dedicated to writing the UK CV.

The British Social Security System

The United Kingdom has a social security system that covers various aspects, including pensions, healthcare, and financial assistance in case of disability. The basic pension is based on your National Insurance contributions. Make sure to understand how the British social security system works and what benefits you may receive. Consider joining a private pension fund if you wish to enhance your pension coverage.

Work and Sickness in the United Kingdom

The issue of sickness in the workplace is an important aspect of working life in the United Kingdom. British law clearly establishes the rights of workers in case of illness and the responsibilities of employers.

First and foremost, it’s important to note that in the case of illness, the employer must begin paying the worker from the fourth day of absence. This means that the first three days of sickness are not paid. However, many companies choose to pay employees from the first day of illness, but this is not mandatory.

Those earning a minimum of £109.40 gross per week are entitled to receive Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), financial assistance provided by the British government, amounting to approximately £87 per week. The exact amount may vary and depends on current legislation. Furthermore, if a worker is absent from work for several weeks, they may also have the right to apply for Universal Credit, which can provide additional financial support.

The importance of these laws is to ensure that workers are not compelled to work when they are ill, thereby safeguarding their health and well-being. However, it is crucial to note that employers may require medical certificates or proof of illness when a worker is absent due to sickness. It’s a trust-based system, but employers can take measures to ensure that sickness absences are legitimate.

The Dismissal Process in the United Kingdom

The dismissal process in the United Kingdom is an important topic to understand for both employers and employees. It’s an operation that must follow specific procedures and is subject to regulations and laws.

First and foremost, it’s essential to note that the employer must follow a legal procedure to dismiss an employee. This involves formal notification to the employee, often in the form of a dismissal letter, specifying the reasons for the dismissal. The employee has the right to receive a notice period, the length of which may vary depending on the length of employment and the employment contract. If the reasons for dismissal are unclear or if the employee believes them to be unjustified, they can appeal and seek to resolve the matter through legal or mediation procedures.

Furthermore, it’s important to consider maternity and paternity rights during the dismissal process. Mothers have the right to maternity leave, which may vary in duration but generally includes at least 26 weeks of compulsory leave. During maternity leave, the employer cannot dismiss a mother unless there are exceptional circumstances. Dismissing a mother during maternity leave is generally considered discrimination.

Similarly, fathers have the right to paternity leave, allowing them to care for the newborn and establish a bond with the child. Again, dismissing a father during paternity leave is considered discriminatory.

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Anti-Discrimination Protections for Workers

The United Kingdom also has a set of laws that protect workers from potential discrimination in the workplace. For instance, the Equality Act and the Employment Equality laws safeguard workers from discrimination based on age, race, religion, sexual orientation, disability, and other factors.

Work and Holidays in the United Kingdom

Holidays are an important aspect of work life. In general, workers in the UK are entitled to paid leave, but the number of holiday days and the rules governing them can vary depending on the company and the employment contract.

By law, workers in the UK are entitled to a minimum of 28 days of annual leave, which may include recognized bank holidays. However, the way holidays are calculated can vary from one company to another. Some companies offer fixed holidays, while others calculate holiday entitlement based on the number of days worked or the employee’s length of service.

During the holiday period, workers are entitled to receive their regular salary. Many companies also offer additional leave or bonuses to encourage employees to take a break from work.

An important aspect to consider is negotiating holidays with the employer. It’s advisable to plan holidays in advance and agree on periods of absence with the company, especially if there are particularly busy times of the year for work.

Probationary Period

The contract must also specify the duration and conditions of your probationary period. It’s very likely that you will be asked to complete a probationary period (typically lasting from one to six months) before being officially employed. During the probationary period, the notice period for dismissal or resignation is shorter: in general, a week’s notice is sufficient for resignation instead of a month. It’s also important to note that during the probationary period, the employer can decide not to hire you or terminate your contract for any reason without you being able to challenge it.

In the case of dismissal after the probationary period, it’s imperative to ask your employer for the reason behind this decision. If you believe your actions did not violate your contract, you have the right to an appeal, allowing you to contest your dismissal before it takes effect.

Once you’ve accepted your new position, your employer has three months to provide you with a copy of your employment contract. Read your contract carefully and make sure you can fulfill all the requirements, as once the contract is signed, everything that is asked of you within the scope of your job cannot be contested. For example, if you have a typical 9-5 job but are asked to work a night shift, as stipulated in the contract you’ve signed, you cannot refuse to work your shift.

Trade Union Rights in the United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, trade unions play a significant role in protecting workers’ rights. Joining a trade union can provide valuable support in various work-related situations. These unions represent workers in different industries, negotiate collective agreements, offer legal advice, and assist in contract negotiations.

A trade union is an organization of workers who come together to defend their common interests. There are several trade unions in the United Kingdom, each with a specific focus on sectors or professions. Here are some of the most relevant unions:

  • Unite the Union: This union represents workers in various sectors, including manufacturing, transportation, healthcare, and construction.
  • GMB: Specialized in the industrial, transport, and public services sectors.
  • Unison: This union is known for representing workers in the public sector, including nursing staff, teachers, and healthcare professionals.
  • Prospect: It focuses on technical, scientific, and engineering professions, as well as covering arts, design, and media.

Benefits of Joining a Trade Union

Joining a trade union offers several advantages. Firstly, you will have access to legal advice and representation in case of workplace disputes. Unions can assist you in negotiating collective agreements that establish better conditions for workers, including minimum wage, working hours, and benefits. Moreover, unions often provide financial, insurance, and pension advisory services.

If you believe that a trade union might be beneficial for your work situation, you can join online through their websites or directly contact their offices. It is essential to understand your trade union rights and how to join a specific union based on your industry and needs.

Do you know the differences between a British and an Italian contract? Share your work experience in England with us!

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