Everything you need to know about working in the UK


Many people come to the UK to work and there are many different types of employment available. In this section we describe your rights regarding employment, starting with what you need to do in order to start working in the UK.

How to get started 

People who have a passport from an EU country have the right to live and work in the UK. People who come to the UK as a family member of someone with an EU passport also have the right to work in the UK. This may change after 2020.

There are different categories under which you can be employed in the UK, either as an employee or as a self-employed worker. In most jobs, you work as employee. However, if you want to work for yourself, which is called ‘self-employed’, you will need to register as self-employed with the HMRC (which is not covered in this guide). The reason why you need to know about these differences to different rights.

An employee has far more employment rights protected under legislation than a self- employed person. Some employers try to treat their workers as “self-employed” but in fact they are either workers or employees.

We will describe some of these rights in more detail below. If you have questions about employment you should seek advice from your local Law Centre.

Your right is to have a job contract: this is essential to have your employment rights protected against any problem. In the contract, you should have a description of the job in question as well as your rights and duties as an employee.

Your contract and hours

You can’t work more than 48 hours a week on average, unless you sign an opt-out agreement. You can start working full-time at age of 16. When someone reaches 18, the adult employment rights and rules are applied.

The basic rights when it comes to working times are:

  • one day off in any given week
  • breaks of at least 20 minutes after each 6 hours of work

A contract of more than 48 hours per week can be refused if no opt-out is provided. It is illegal to work more than an average of 8 hours per night. Self-employed people do not usually have these rights. Therefore, it is illegal for an employer to force workers to become self- employed and take their rights away.

Always ask for a written contract that provides proof of your terms and conditions of employment, specifying your name and your employer’s name, start date, job title, pay details, sick pay, and holidays.

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