The labour market in the United Kingdom

The British labour market
Updated 2023-09-07 13:29

Whether you are a job seeker in the United Kingdom or just curious about the available professional opportunities in the UK, the best thing to do is to explore the labour market thoroughly and seek advice from other expats to learn about the various options and the most promising fields for expats.

The British job market after COVID-19

The current unemployment rate in the UK stands at 76% in 2023. Despite economic inactivity rates, there are more than one million job opportunities in the UK.

The top ten industries by employment in the UK are as follows:

  • Finance and banking;
  • Information technology;
  • Construction;
  • Healthcare;
  • Wholesale and retail;
  • Vehicle dealers and transportation;
  • Pension funding;
  • General insurance;
  • Management consultancies;
  • Pharmaceutical.

COVID-19 related notes:

The number of people who claim unemployment benefits in the UK was 1.57 million in July 2023. Compared to March 2020, the numbers have increased by 342,000.

The furlough scheme ended in September 2021. Workers who were under the scheme are expected to return to work.

Regional employment in the UK

Due to its geographic situation, the distribution of labour is not homogeneous in the UK. Finding a job in the southeast of England and other big cities across the UK is easier than in other regions. It comes as no surprise that the broadest range and most lucrative jobs are in London. It is essential to critically research areas with the best job opportunities relating to your sector, considering the work-life balance and budget.


Good command of English is one of the most important requirements when searching for a job in the UK. On the other hand, unskilled jobs require basic English knowledge.

Finding work in the UK

The best spot to start your job hunt is online. Check out's dedicated jobs page for jobs in England and the rest of the UK. You can explore several UK job search platforms like Indeed, Monster, TopLanguage, Total jobs, etc. It is essential to adapt your CV to UK standards and ensure that your social media accounts, especially LinkedIn, are up-to-date. Your online presence can increase your chances of networking and landing a new job. Also, you can sign up for the UK National Employment Agency, which provides support and career advice, and other services like CV editing.

Good to know:

Your language skills should not be confined to English alone. Your fluency in other languages can be a considerable asset in some industries.

EU and non-EU workers in the UK

To work in the UK, you will need a work visa, and for this, you have to secure a work contract or job offer from a reputable British employer. The employer will be required to sponsor your work visa in the UK. If you are already living in the United Kingdom, the procedures relating to the work visa are different.

Social security (National Insurance) in the UK

Provided you earn more than the stipulated minimum wage, you are expected to make National Insurance Contributions (NICs) in the UK. There are different ‘classes' (aka types) of National Insurance, and the amount you pay depends on your employment status and annual income. In general, everyone above 16 who earns more than £242 a week pays National Insurance, and self-employed people who make a yearly profit of at least £12,570. To pay your NICs, you must have a National Insurance (NI) number. All non-British citizens working in the UK have to register for the NI number. However, legally employed expats in the UK can start attending work without an NI number, meaning that having one isn't required to start work.

Good to know:

The basic UK income tax rate for workers who earn between £12,571 and £50,270 is 20%. A higher income tax rate of 40% applies to those earning between £50,270 and £125,140.

The work contract in the UK

You will be asked to sign a work contract upon getting a new job in the UK. Make sure to read it thoroughly and note the following details:

  • The language the contract is written in: It must be written or translated clearly into English. This will be helpful in case the employee needs legal assistance while in the UK;
  • Probation period in employment: the length and terms of the trial period;
  • Contract duration: The contract duration must be noticeable, especially when it has an ending date;
  • The salary: the currency, the tax rate, and the employee's negotiation power should be stated;
  • Attached benefits: It may include accommodation, air tickets, healthcare, or support for family members such as children and other dependents;
  • Termination notice period;
  • Redundancy package.

Good to know:

Some employment contracts include a trial or probation period during which both the employee and the employer can evaluate the employment agreement, especially if one party is not meeting expectations. The terms and conditions of the trial period must be spelt out clearly in the contract. Usually, the trial period lasts from three to six months.

Salary and the minimum wage in the UK

The minimum wage in the UK corresponds to different age groups. In detail, it goes as follows:

  • £5.28 per hour for people under 18 years old;
  • £7.49 per hour for people 18-20 years old;
  • £10.18 per hour for people 21-22 years old;
  • £10.42 per hour for people 23 years old and above;
  • £5.28 per hour for apprentices (Note that apprentices above 19 years old and those who have completed their first apprenticeship are entitled to the minimum wage of their respective age).

The legal working schedule in the UK

The maximum working hours per week in the UK is 48 hours. Those aged 18 and below can only work 8 hours per day and no more than 40 hours per week. Make sure that your contract states your working hours clearly.

Working conditions in the UK

All workers in the UK are entitled to 5.6 weeks annual leave (paid) on average, statutory sick leave, 52 weeks (1 year) of maternity leave for mothers (receive payment for 39 weeks), and paternity leave of one to two weeks. An employee can ask for training and flexible working hours, even if employers don't always agree. UK employee rights are unique to each employee's contract and the surrounding circumstances. Find more information on the Citizen's Advice website.

Pensions in the UK

If you are working in the UK, you can start saving early for retirement. Saving can be done via the state, the company you work for, or a private pension scheme. However, expats are only eligible for the State pension after ten years of accumulated contributions.

Remote work after COVID-19 in the UK

According to the latest 2023 survey, 16% of UK workers currently work exclusively from home, and 1 in 4 workers now work a hybrid workweek. Over half of all employers offer remote work in the UK. City jobs in sectors such as finance, and IT are more likely to be done from home, even after the pandemic. In contrast, manufacturing jobs, retail jobs, and leisure and hospitality jobs cannot be done remotely, meaning higher-paid jobs are more remote-friendly.

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.