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Rights to pay

Rights to pay

All employees are entitled to be paid for the work they have done. They are also entitled to be paid if they are ready and willing to work but their employer has not provided them with any work to do, unless your employment contract says otherwise.

If you're an employee, you're entitled to be paid if you can't work because you are off sick or away from work on maternity leave, paternity leave or adoption leave, or parental leave. You are also allowed a certain number of days paid holiday a year.

In most of these situations, you are entitled to your usual wage whilst off work. There are some exceptions to these rules. For example, parents on maternity leave, paternity or adoption leave, or parental leave, are entitled to a certain amount of paid leave but the law sets out the rate at which this must be paid and it may not be as much as their usual wage.

If you are employee on sick pay, your contract may give you less pay than your normal pay. By law, most employees are entitled to the legal minimum statutory sick pay. Your contract may give you more pay than this.

You may be entitled to unpaid time off work in other circumstances, for example, in a family emergency or on jury service.

For a complete list of situations where an employee is entitled to be paid for time off work, and which time off work they are entitled to be paid for, see Basic rights at work.
For more information about maternity pay and maternity leave, see Parental rights at work.
For more information about statutory sick pay, see Off work because of sickness.
For more information about holiday pay, see Holidays and holiday pay.
There are special rules for agency workers. For more information, see Agency workers' rights.

Salary sacrifice schemes – childcare vouchers

An employer can offer childcare support to employees under a 'salary sacrifice' scheme. This is a scheme which allows a worker to give up part of their salary in return for vouchers to pay for childcare. There are tax advantages to these schemes, but receiving a childcare voucher instead of pay may reduce your pay to below the lower earnings limit and could affect your right to certain benefits.

For more information about childcare vouchers, see Benefits for families and children.

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How much pay

Nearly all workers are entitled to the national minimum wage - see under heading National minimum wage (NMW) for more details. The worker may be entitled to more than this under their contract.

Any amount of wages on top of the national minimum given by law, or the amount of wages for workers who are not covered by the national minimum wage, depends on the worker’s individual contract of employment.

Employers must not discriminate in the amount that they pay their workers, for example, by paying black workers less than white workers who are doing the same job, or by paying women less than men when they are doing work of equal value. This is known as ‘equal pay’.

If you think you have been discriminated against in your pay, you should speak to an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

There are special rules about how much agencies workers should be paid when they have worked in the same job for the same employer for at least twelve weeks.

For more information about agency workers' right to pay after twelve weeks, see Additional rights for agency workers.

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How should an employee be paid

There is no legal right to have wages paid in any particular way, for example, for an employee to have their wages paid direct into their bank account.

The way that an employee's wages are paid will depend solely on what their contract of employment says about how their wages should be paid. If they do not have a written contract, they still have a contract of employment, but it will be a verbal contract. In cases where there is a verbal contract rather than a written contract, the way wages should be paid should have been agreed between the employer and employee, or if not, will depend on how the employer usually pays the wages of the employees in that workplace.

What the contract should say about when wages are paid - written statement of terms and conditions of employment

All employees who have worked for their employer for at least two months are entitled by law to a ‘written statement of their terms and conditions of employment’. This written statement should include, amongst other information, details of how frequently wages should be paid, such as weekly or monthly.

The employee's contract should give the following details about their wages:-

  • when wages are paid, for example, at the end of the week, at the end of the month
  • whether wages are paid in advance or arrears. With monthly pay, it is common to be paid partly in advance and partly in arrears. With weekly pay, it is usual to be paid in arrears, that is, wages are paid after the work has been done
  • if wages are paid a week in hand. Sometimes if an employee is paid weekly, they have to work for two weeks before they receive any pay. This means that they are always, effectively, being paid a week in arrears and are owed a week’s pay throughout their employment. This week in hand payment will be made when the employee leaves the job.

If you are not sure about whether your contract gives you the above information about your wages, you should speak to an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

For more information about who is entitled to a written statement of terms and conditions of employment and what it should contain, see Employee’s right to written details about the employment contract in Contracts of employment.

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Right to a payslip

All employees are entitled to an individual written payslip, at or before the time they are paid. A written payslip could also be a payslip sent by email.

The payslip must show:

  • gross pay, that is, pay before any tax or national insurance has been taken off
  • the amounts of any deductions which change from week to week, for example tax and national insurance, and what the deductions are for
  • the total amount of any fixed deductions. These are deductions which do not change from week to week, for example, union dues. An employer does not have to give details of what these deductions are for as long as they give a separate statement with these details on at least once a year
  • the total amount of take-home pay after deductions.

An employer is only entitled to make certain deductions from an employee's pay - see under heading Is the employer entitled to make deductions from an employee’s pay.

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National minimum wage (NMW)

Workers in the UK aged 16 (and above school leaving age) or over are legally entitled to a national minimum hourly wage. It does not matter where they work, the size of the firm or the worker’s occupation. This includes casual labourers, agency workers, homeworkers, workers on short-term contracts and workers employed by subcontractors.

Workers who aren't entitled to the National Minimum wage

  • workers aged under 16
  • some people living and working within a family such as nannies, and au pairs. Such a worker will not be entitled to the NMW if they live in the family home where they work and they share meals with the family and they do not have to pay towards their accommodation costs or meals
  • genuinely self-employed people

For information on whether a person is genuinely self-employed, see 'How to tell the difference between an employee and a self-employed person' in Contracts of employment.

  • members of the armed forces (but civilians working for the reserve forces or the ministry of defence are covered)
  • share fishermen
  • prisoners
  • voluntary workers
  • some trainees on government schemes

For details of which trainees are not entitled to the NMW, you need to contact the NMW helpline or an experienced adviser. See below for details of the NMW helpline.

  • workers who are homeless or living in a hostel, who are entitled to Income Support, income-related Employment and Support Allowance or income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance and who are taking part in a scheme run by a charity which provides them with work
  • residential members of religious communities which are charities
  • office holders
  • some trainees on European Community Schemes

How much is the NMW

For most workers aged 21 and over, the standard hourly rate of the NMW is listed below. Some workers are not entitled to the NMW at all - see under heading National minimum wage (NMW)). Some workers are only entitled to be paid at a lower rate, because they are aged between 18 and 20. There are special rates of pay for agricultural workers - see under heading Wages for agricultural workers.

Current NMW rates

Type of NMW

Hourly rate of NMW

From 1.10.13

Standard rate of NMW for workers aged 21 and over£6.31
Workers aged between 18 - 20 - reduced rate NMW£5.03
Workers aged 16-17£3.72
Apprentices who are either under 19 or in the first year of their apprenticeship£2.68

NMW rates – From 1.10.12

Type of NMW

Hourly rate of NMW

From 1.10.12

Standard rate of NMW for workers aged 21 and over£6.19
Workers aged between 18 - 20 - reduced rate NMW£4.98
Workers aged 16-17£3.68
Apprentices who are either under 19 or in the first year of their apprenticeship£2.60

Which types of pay and which hours of work count towards the NMW

The rules about which elements of a worker's pay, and which hours of working time, count towards calculating the NMW are very complicated.

If you think you are not being paid the national minimum wage or want to check whether you are entitled to the national minimum wage, you should contact the Pay and Work Rights helpline on 0800 917 2368 or should go to an experienced adviser, for example, a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by e-mail, click on nearest CAB.

Pay and Work Rights helpline

If you want to find out if you are eligible to claim the NMW, you should contact the Pay and Work Rights helpline on 0800 917 2368. You can also use an interactive calculator to work out whether you're eligible for the NMW. Go to: www.worksmart.org.uk.

Information about the national minimum wage in different languages

There are government guides about the national minimum wage in a range of different community languages, for example, Polish, Slovak and Lithuanian. Go to: www.direct.gov.uk.

Factsheet about the national minimum wage

For more information about the national minimum wage in England, Wales and Scotland, see National minimum wage in Employment fact sheets. This factsheet has been translated into a number of community languages, including Polish, Czech and Slovak.

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Wages for agricultural workers

There are special rules for pay, holiday, sick pay and working hours for agricultural workers in England, depending on when they started working for their employer. They may be entitled to only the statutory minimum in the same way as other workers, or they may be entitled to more than the statutory minimum. You can find more information on the GOV.UK website at www.gov.uk.

Agricultural workers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are entitled to a set minimum hourly pay depending on how old they are and the kind of work they do. They have a set rate for standard pay and a set rate for overtime pay.

You can find more information about agricultural wages in Scotland on the Scottish Government website at www.scotland.gov.uk.

If you think you are an agricultural worker and are entitled to a particular level of pay, you should contact the Pay and Work Rghts helpline on 0800 917 2368.

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Is an employer entitled to make deductions from an employee’s pay

By law, an employer is only entitled to make certain deductions from an employee’s pay. If the employer does not pay the employee at all, this counts as a 100% deduction. There are rules about what counts as pay for the purposes of when the employer can make deductions, see below.

In most cases, an employer can only lawfully make a deduction from an employee’s pay if the deduction is:-

  • required to be made by law. For example, employers are required to deduct tax and national insurance from their employee’s pay by law; or
  • allowed for by the employee’s contract. This means that there must be a specific clause in the contract which allows for that particular deduction to be made. The deduction can then only be made lawfully if the employee is given a written copy of that term in the contract before any deduction is made under it. This would cover deductions such as union dues or payments to a pension scheme; or
  • the deduction has been agreed to in writing by the employee before it is deducted.

There are particular deductions which an employer can make which do not have to fit into the categories listed above. These deductions are:

  • a deduction because the worker has been genuinely overpaid
  • a deduction made because the employee took part in industrial action
  • a deduction made by an employer under a court order or an order from an employment tribunal, such as an attachment of earnings order (in Scotland, an earnings arrestment).

Deductions from shop-workers

There are special rules for deductions made from shop-worker's pay.

The employer of a shop-worker can make deductions for cash shortages or missing stock. This could be, for example, because the shop-worker has been dishonest or because of theft by a customer.

The employer must give details in writing of the deduction to the employee on pay day. Any deduction for missing cash or stock must be made within 12 months of the employer discovering the shortage.

The deduction must be no more than 10% of the shop-worker's gross pay on any one payday. This deduction can be made in addition to other lawful deductions which the employer is allowed to make.

There is no limit to the amount of money that an employer can deduct in total from a shop-worker for missing cash or stock. The only limit is how much can be deducted on each pay day.

For more information in England, Wales and Scotland about your rights when your employer makes deductions from your pay, see Employer withholds your pay in Employment fact sheets.

If you have had a deduction made from your pay which you do not agree with you should seek advice from an experienced adviser, for example, a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

What counts as pay

When considering whether an employer can make a deduction from an employee's wages, the following all count as wages:-

  • normal pay including fees, bonuses and commission, but not payments for expenses
  • holiday pay
  • payments ordered by an employment tribunal, such as payment of wages between an employee being dismissed and being given their job back
  • payments which have to be made by law instead of wages, such as guarantee payments when the employee takes time off to do union work or look for a job if they are to be made redundant
  • statutory sick pay
  • statutory maternity pay, statutory paternity pay and statutory adoption pay.

Tips and service charges

Tips in cash which are voluntarily given by a customer to a worker, such as a waiter, count as a gift from the customer to the worker. They therefore do not form part of the worker’s pay. Even if the cash tips are pooled by all the workers and shared out amongst them, they still remain gifts to the workers and so are not part of their pay.

If a service charge is compulsory, that is, it is added to all bills automatically, it is the property of the employer. The employer can share it out between the workers as the employer wishes. If the worker has a clause in their contract saying they are entitled to a share of the service charge, they should get this on top of their wages.

If a tip is paid by a customer voluntarily adding an extra amount to a credit card or cheque payment, the tip is the property of the employer. The employer can share it out between the workers as the employer wishes. However, if the worker is given a share of the tip, this should be paid on top of their wages.

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If you don't get paid or you are paid late

If you don't get paid, or you're paid late, this also counts as a deduction from wages. Your employer may be breaking the law.

To find out more about what you can do in this situation, see Employer withholds your pay [Adobe Acrobat Document 63 KB].

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