The United Kingdom has a population of about 60 million, yet it is only half the size of Sweden. It is the world’s fifth largest economy with dominating finance and service sectors. London is one of the leading finance districts in the world. With low taxation and good job opportunities it attracts large numbers of people from around the world every year.
Working in the UK
As an EU/EEA citizen you are permitted reside in the United Kingdom, hence you can work, visit and live in the UK without applying for a visa. However you must be able to support yourself and your family in the UK without any help from public funds. You and your family members can:
· accept offers of work;
· work (whether as an employee or in self-employment);
· set up a business;
· manage a company; or
· set up a local branch of a company
In the United Kingdom you are by law not allowed to work more than 48 hours a week. However, you and your employer can make an opt-out agreement were you agree to be available to work more than 48 hours a week. Furthermore you are entitled to,
· A 20 minute break per every 6 hours of work
· 24 hours clear of work each week (or 48 hours every fortnight)
· A minimum of 4.8 week’s annual holiday leave (5.6 from 1 April 2009).
There are eight permanent Bank Holidays in the UK. Working on a Bank Holiday does not entitle you to an enhanced pay rate. However, if a public holiday such as Christmas Day coincides with a weekend or another public holiday you are entitled to a day off on a normal weekday in order to have the equivalent amount of days off every year.
If you would like confidential and impartial advice on employment right issues you can call the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service Helpline on 0044 (0) 845 747 4747, Mondays to Fridays between 9.00 am and 6.00 pm.
National Insurance Contribution (NIC)
In the UK employees are obliged to pay a National Insurance Contribution (NIC) towards certain social benefits such as state pension. The amount due depends on your earnings and weather you are employed or self-employed. To be able to pay NIC you need to apply for your own individual National Insurance Number (NI) by calling the Job Center Plus NI allocation service helpline on 0044 (0) 845 600 0643 and they will guide you to your nearest Job Center. You will be asked to come for an interview to confirm your identity and the validity of your claim for a national insurance number. For a list of things to bring for the interview please visit the Department for Work and Pensions ( DWP ) website .
Your national insurance number is personal and should only be given out to official authorities and/or your employer. Please note that it is not valid as proof of identity.
In the United Kingdom you pay income tax on earnings, pensions and benefits and it is collected by the HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC). When you move to the UK you should request a P86 form and the IR139 brochure from your nearest tax office in connection with future tax payments. The tax year runs from 6 April to the following 5 April. Nearly everyone living in the UK receives a personal tax allowance which is an amount of your income you are allowed to earn tax free. The personal allowance for 2008/09 is £5,435. When you have exceeded your income allowance you will begin to pay tax according to various taxation bands, ranging from 10-40%.
There are a number of deductible allowances and reliefs that can be deducted from your tax. Such deductable allowances are Married Couple's Allowance, tax relief for business expenses you've paid for and donations to charities. However if you're employed and you receive non-cash benefits from your employer you will have to pay tax on them. Benefits that you might have to pay tax on include company cars or vans, fuel provided for your vehicle, medical insurance, living accommodation and loans at low interest rates.
Some employers illegally pay their employees 'cash in hand' (without deducting tax and NIC from their wages). Employers can reduce their wages bill by doing this and you as an employee lose out on entitlement to certain benefits. You can be prosecuted by HMRC if you knowingly take part in such a fraud.
Finding a job
It is not hard to find a job in the United Kingdom as it offers a broad and flexible labour market with comparatively few rules and regulations. Nevertheless, the UK social welfare system is not as elaborate as the Swedish one and workers are not covered to the same extent. Hence it is imperative to be prepared for more flexible and uncertain conditions. Many firms accept job applications via the internet. However, it is also a good idea to sign up with a recruitment agency as they can locate a job that suits you.
If you become unemployed
If you have just moved to the UK you are not entitled to any benefits. However, if you are actively looking for work in the UK and have contributed to the unemployment fund before, you are entitled to unemployment benefits. If you are between 18 and 30 and unemployed you can turn to the Princes Trust. They offer financial and business support for up to three years to people who wish to become self-employed. In addition students who have graduated students from university and are looking for work, a graduate scheme would be an excellent opportunity to gain work experience, knowledge and earn money. Most large firms in the UK offer graduate schemes; however the competition is tough. The salary is approximately £18 – 20k, but it varies from industry to industry.
In the UK as in Sweden you can get paid monthly, weekly or hourly. The date you will receive your salary depends on the company you are working for.
The minimum hourly amount an employer is legally allowed to pay you dependents on your age. From October 2007 the minimum wages is £4.60 per hour for 18-21 year olds and £5.52 per hour for workers aged 22 and over. However, if you are in your first six months of training, your employer can keep you on £4.60 per hour despite you being over 22.
If you are being paid below the new national minimum wage you can call the National Minimum Wage Helpline on 0845 6000 678 for help.