Updated 2 years ago

If you’re looking for a new job in the UK, or if you’re just curious to see what job opportunities are out there, it is important to seek advice and thoroughly research your options to help navigate through the many vacancies throughout the country.

The job market in the UK

The job market is very open to legal expatriates, and the UK economy is picking up and steadily growing, especially so in big cities. The 2007 world economic crisis hit the UK quite hard, but in recent years the job market has seen many sectors flourishing, including the financial, tourism, retail, trade and creative sectors.

The UK economy moves quickly in part thanks to the flexible UK job market. Employment contracts are easily attained in the UK because the employees turnover is high. In the UK it is easier to give notice to employees than in many other countries. Thus you can find a job relatively easy, but on the other hand, you can lose your job at the same speed. The trick is to read your contract carefully, become familiar with UK employee rights, and not be afraid to ask for your basic employment rights.

 Good to know:

Most contracts contain a trial (or probation) period, where the employee and the employer have the chance to reevaluate the employment agreement if they feel that the other party is not living up to expectation. It is important to have the trial period terms and conditions clearly stated in the contract before signing. A trial period is usually between three to six months.

Regional Employment in the UK

In the UK, the geographical distribution of jobs is not homogenous. It will be easier to find a job in the south-east of England as well as in other big cities across the UK. London naturally offers the most lucrative and wide-ranging jobs market. However, it is important to research which area has the most opportunities for your sector, offers the best work and life balance and is within your budget.

To obtain a job anywhere in the United Kingdom you must have a good command of English. Basic knowledge of English is enough for unskilled jobs such as factory work.

Finding work in the UK

The UK has happily reached the highest level of employment since 1971, with most employment (and therefore vacancies) concentrated in its major cities, such as London, Edinburgh, Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool.

The best place to start job-hunting is online. Job search websites such as Indeed, Monster, Top Language Jobs, Reed and Total Jobs, to name just a few, are brimming with job vacancies, and will help you research the right job for you and start assessing where the best opportunities are.

Adapt your CV for the UK market, read over your LinkedIn profile, and update your Facebook profile picture if necessary. Remember that your online presence matters in today’s job market.

Signing up to the UK national employment agency is also a good idea. They can be a crucial support in finding you the right employment, advising on career choices and employment regulations as well as offering other services such as CV editing. As an EU citizen, you are also eligible for benefits while looking for a job.  

Fluency in another language (as well as a good command of English) is a huge asset if you are applying for jobs in the UK, especially if your target business or sector would benefit from the languages you speak.

European Union (EU) citizens

Europeans can find information on job opportunities in the UK through their national employment agencies or European employment networks, such as EURES.

Another option is the Erasmus Plus programme. Funded by the EU, it aims to encourage life-long learning and to help European citizens to study, train, and volunteer in the EU-EEA region.

 Attention: The above information may be affected by Brexit, which is due to be implemented within the next six years.

Citizens from outside the European Union (EU)

You will need to have a work contract or job offer from a British employer in place to get the UK work visa. Your employer will have to sponsor your work visa. The work visa process is less complicated if you are already living in the UK, employers tend to be less deterred by complex immigration procedures.

Social security (national insurance)

Everyone working in the UK pays National Insurance Contributions (NICs), providing they earn more than a minimum amount, and these pay for insurance schemes and future pensions. Anyone coming to work in the UK will need to register for a National Insurance (NI) number, even if their stay is not permanent.

A number of contributions you pay is determined by how much you earn, and is usually around 20% for employed workers (who have it automatically deducted from their salaries) or 20% of profits for self-employed workers.

Since 2013, the British government has been setting up a new framework for benefits; the Universal Credit System. You can claim this if your circumstances and income meet the criteria. For example, the basic standard allowance given for a single person over 25 is £317.82 per month, with additional funds being possible if you are eligible. You can read more information on this scheme on the UK Government website.

Work contracts in the UK

When you find a new job in the UK, your employer will present you with a work contract to sign. Read it through carefully and look out for the following details:

  • The language the contract is written in: The contract should be written in or translated into English. Thus, in case the employee needs to access legal assistance while staying in the UK, the contract is valid in within UK jurisdiction.
  • Trial period: Ensure that the length of the trial period and the terms during this period are clear.
  • Contract duration: If you have a contract end, ensure the terms are clearly stated.
  • The salary, its currency, and tax liability: Ascertain whether you will continue to pay tax in both your home country and the host country, as you may be able to negotiate new payroll circumstances to avoid double taxation. If in doubt, speak with a financial advisor.
  • Benefits: Possible benefits include accommodation allowance, flights, healthcare, and if you have children, support with (or just an increase in salary that can cover) education or childcare fees in the host country.
  • Termination notice period.
  • Redundancy package. 

Salary and minimum wage in the UK

It is important to ensure that your employer is paying you the correct minimum wage according to your age bracket.

The minimum hourly wage in the United Kingdom is as follows:

£4.00 per hour for under 18-year-olds
£5.55 per hour for 18-20-year-olds
£6.95 per hour for 21-24-year-olds
£7.20 per hour for 25 year-olds and above
£3.40 per hour for apprentices

 Important: these rates will be raised in April 2017

Legal working hours and overtime in the UK

Legal working time in the UK is set at a maximum of 48 hours per week. If you are 18 or under you cannot work for more than eight hours a day or 40 hours a week. If you should work fewer hours per week than the maximum rate, ensure your personalised hours are clearly stated in your contract.

Working conditions in the UK

Working conditions in the UK are of a high standard, and UK employees enjoy an average of 5.6 weeks paid annual leave, statutory sick pay, maternity leave of 52 weeks for mothers (with maternity pay for up to 39 weeks), and paternity leave of one to two weeks for fathers with up to 26 additional weeks if their partner returns to work before them. Plus, UK employees have the right to ask their employers for training and flexible working hours (but the employers do not necessarily have to agree).

Each employee’s rights and obligations will be unique to their circumstances and work contracts, and you can read more information on both the UK Government’s website and the Citizen’s Advice website.

Pensions in the UK

Although it can seem too early to think about pensions, it’s never too soon to start saving. You can save through the state, with your company and also through a private pension scheme.

At the moment, most expats will find that you cannot get a UK state pension unless your National Insurance Contributions show at least 10 years of accumulated contributions. EU pension laws can mitigate this requirement in certain circumstances, but whether you are from the EU or not, it’s worthwhile to check your individual situation and to make your pension arrangements with care. Read more on the UK government’s website.

 Useful links:

Expat.com – Jobs in England
ACAS - Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Services http://www.acas.org.uk
Directgov – Public services and regulations information – jobs, work contracts, minimum wages and more http://www.direct.gov.uk
UK NARIC – The UK’s national agency for recognition and comparison of international qualifications skills https://www.naric.org.uk/naric/
Citizens Advice – Official website for UK rights and regulations https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/

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.