How to find out about your pay

Your job offer letter and your employment contract should spell out clearly what pay and benefits will be provided by your employer.

Your pay is a key term of your contract of employment. It is the basis on which you have agreed to work for your employer. Your employer must keep any promises they make to you about your pay. Your pay cannot be cut, or your payment methods altered, except with your agreement.

If your employment has been compulsorily transferred out of the NHS to a private or voluntary sector provider, you should remain entitled to Agenda for Change terms and conditions as long as you stay in the same role working for the new service provider.

This also applies if the business you are employed in has been transferred again (second generation outsourcing).

It is important to keep hold of your contract documentation in a safe place, so if necessary you can prove that you are entitled to Agenda for Change terms.

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Your right to written information

Your employer is legally required to give you specific information about your pay.

They must give you this information in a document known as a written statement of employment particulars.

If any changes are made to your terms and conditions, you must be given a new statement setting out those changes within a month.

Your written statement must include:

  • your start date;
  • your continuous service (this is important if you have transferred from another employer);
  • how your pay is worked out, including any pay rate, band or scale;
  • how often and when you get paid, for example, ‘monthly on the last Friday of the calendar month’;
  • how you are paid, for example, bank transfer;
  • your working hours, including overtime and any overtime pay.  Your employer must include some extra detail, including your working days if you work part time, whether your hours/days are fixed or variable, and if they vary, what the rules are (for example, how the shift rota works and how you will be told about shifts and shift changes);
  • your rights to sick leave and sick pay;
  • your rights to holidays and holiday pay;
  • pension information;
  • benefits apart from basic pay, such as mileage allowance or health insurance;
  • parental leave and pay policies; and
  • training, including any compulsory training your employer won’t be paying for.

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What your pay slip must tell you

You must be given an itemised payslip by your first pay date.

It must show your gross wages and any deductions (such as tax, national insurance and student loan repayments), as well as your net (take home) pay.

If your pay varies depending on your working hours, your pay slip must show how many hours you are being paid for. You should be able to tell from looking at your pay slip how much you are getting paid for every hour that you work.

If your pay varies for some other reason, for example commission payments, these must be shown separately.

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Legal minimum pay

Your basic hourly pay (excluding premium rates, such as ‘time and a half’) must be at least the national minimum wage (NMW) for your age. Your hourly pay rate is worked out as an average of your basic pay over a relevant pay period (normally a month).

There are strict rules about what employers can deduct from your wages without breaking minimum wage law.

For example, deductions to fund your work uniform are against the law if they mean that your average pay falls below the NMW in the relevant month.  Note - personal protective equipment must be provided free of charge.

There are minimum hourly NMW rates in force throughout the UK. The government calls the top band (for workers aged 25 and older) the National Living Wage.

NMW rates are in different age bands.  There is a separate apprenticeship minimum wage. The current rates are published on the government’s NMW web page.

The NMW should not be confused with the voluntary living wage, set each year by the Living Wage Foundation. This rate  is based on an independent assessment of the amount someone needs to get by.

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What can be deducted from your pay

There are strict rules about what can be deducted from your pay. Deductions can only be made if:

  • your employer has a statutory right, for example to deduct tax and national insurance or student loan repayments;
  • you have been agreed in advance and in writing to the deduction (for example, an agreement over training costs or a train season ticket); or
  • you have agreed to the deduction under a very clear written term in your employment contract. A copy must have been given to you beforehand. For example, your employment contract may include a term that allows your employer to deduct pay if you have taken more holiday than you are entitled to when you come to leave your job. You need to have agreed to the deduction. Normally you do this by signing the contract.

There are some important exceptions to the general ban on deductions from your pay. One to note is that employers can make deduction from your pay if they accidentally overpay you, even if the mistake was 100% their fault! This is a good reason why it is sensible to check your payslip regularly.

Check with the CSP if you are uncertain whether a deduction from your pay is lawful. You will need to act quickly. Legal deadlines for challenging pay deductions are very short.

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Pay rises

Your contract of employment should state how your pay will be reviewed.

Most employers review pay every year and decide on any pay increase. However, unless your written contract of employment says your pay will be reviewed, there is no legal right to insist on a pay review or a pay increase.

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Rights to equal pay

When deciding whether to award pay increases, your employer must not discriminate.

All male and female employees (including apprentices and those working from home), whether on full-time, part-time, casual or temporary contracts and regardless of length of service, have a right to equal pay for equal work.

In reality, employers rarely admit to pay discrimination. Often, they don’t even realise that it is there.

Sex is not the only legal basis on which UK workers can claim pay equality. You have legal rights to protection from being paid less for no good reason:

  • because of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage or civil partnership, pregnancy or maternity, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation;
  • because of your part-time status (including if you work under a zero hours contract);
  • because you have a fixed-term contract; or
  • because you are a temporary agency worker with at least 12 weeks’ continuous service with the same hirer (compared with the pay of an equivalent direct hire).

However, individuals who run their own businesses, freely selling their services to their own clients and customers, have no legal rights to challenge pay discrimination.

If you think you are being paid less for an unlawful reason, contact the CSP so that you can find out what you can do about it.

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Pay during rest breaks

You have a legal right to a minimum rest break of at least 20 minutes if your working day lasts more than six hours. Your employer is only legally obliged to pay you for your rest break if your contract says so. Plenty of employers do provide paid rest breaks.

Information on rest breaks – how many, how long and whether they are paid or unpaid - must be included in your written statement of employment particulars.

If you are an agency worker who has worked for at least 12 weeks in the same role for the same organisation, you should be getting the same paid rest breaks as an equivalent direct hire of that organisation.

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Overtime pay

Whether you are entitled to extra pay for working overtime depends on what your employment contract says.

Details of overtime and overtime pay must be included in your written statement of employment particulars.

There is no automatic right to a higher pay rate (for example time and a half) for working extra hours. This depends on your contract of employment.

Your employer will breach national minimum wage law if you are required to work so much overtime that your average hourly rate falls below the national minimum wage rate for your age.

Your workplace may operate policies such as ‘time off in lieu’ or flexitime, allowing you to bank time or take time off now and make it up later. There should be information about these in your written statement of employment particulars.

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Your employer must reimburse to you for all reasonable expenses you necessarily incur in the course of your employment. Your written statement of employment particulars should set out clearly what expenses are reimbursed, for example mileage expenses if you use your own car for work, and what proof you must provide.

Some expenses may be taxable.

Most employers have an expenses policy. Make sure you follow any expenses policy carefully and to the letter. Any breach - even if minor - can have serious disciplinary consequences – sometimes even summary dismissal.

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Using your car for work

If you use your own car for business purposes, HMRC operates a system of tax-free approved mileage allowances.

The approved mileage allowance rate for the first 10,000 business miles in the tax year, and other helpful information about using your own car for work, is available on the website of tax charity the Low Incomes Tax Reform Group.

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Asking questions about pay

If you believe you are being underpaid, you can ask your employer for information about other workers’ pay. But they aren’t obliged to tell you unless you make it clear that you are asking because you suspect the difference is down to what in legal terms is a ‘protected characteristic’ such as sex or race.

ACAS has put together guidance on asking questions about suspected pay discrimination.

While your contract can ban you from discussing your pay with others it cannot ban you if the discussion is to work out whether there is pay discrimination going on.

Employers must maintain pay records for HMRC, showing how much you are paid and all statutory deductions, such as tax and national insurance. They are also required to keep a record of the hours you work.

You can ask your employer to provide information it holds about your own pay record. Your employer must give you this information (but not that of co-workers) because it is ‘personal data’ about you. This means that it is covered by data protection laws.

There is guidance on how to ask your employer for a copy of your personal data (called a ‘data subject access request’) on the Information Commissioner’s website.

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Changes to your pay

Changes to your pay (or to how or when you are paid) must only be made with your agreement.

Once you have agreed to any change, you must be given written notice of the change within one month.

When your pay goes up, you usually show your agreement by continuing to work for the new higher wage.

If your pay goes down and you don’t act quickly to demonstrate clearly that you do not accept the pay reduction, it is likely that by continuing to work without objection, you will be taken to have accepted the change.

You have important legal rights if your pay is cut without your agreement but you should take good advice. You will need to act quickly if you decide to challenge your employer. If you are in this position, contact the CSP.

You will be in a stronger position to object to a pay cut if you act together with colleagues. But don’t delay - employment tribunal deadlines are very short.

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Universal Credit

Universal Credit is a monthly paid means-tested benefit for working age people on a low income who are in work or job hunting. Universal Credit is paid monthly in arrears into your bank account. It replaces six means-tested benefits:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Housing Benefit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Working Tax Credit

You can find helpful information about Universal Credit on the websites of national charities Turn2us and Entitledto. Citizens Advice also provides useful support.

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