Migrant workers

  • Key facts


    Migrant workers working in the UK should receive equal pay to British workers doing the same job and must be paid at least the national minimum wage. They are protected by UK employment laws.

    • Migrant workers are entitled to be paid equally to British workers
    • Legal migrant workers have the same rights as British workers
    • All migrant workers must register for a national insurance (NI) number when they start work.
  • Help for migrant workers

     
    If you’re a UNISON member and a migrant worker from a country outside the European Union and need advice on immigration issues related to your work situation and right to work in the UK then get in touch on 0800 0 857 857.

    Find out more

  • man cleaning floor. Bigstock

On this page:

Introduction: migrant workers in the UK
Registering for a national insurance number
Pay rates for migrant workers
The national minimum wage
Payslips
Deductions 
Help for UNISON members

Introduction: migrant workers in the UK

Migrant workers are people who come from other countries to work in the UK. Migrant workers include seasonal workers, full-time and part-time employees, and contract or self-employed workers.

 

Registering for a national insurance number

To work legally in the UK all migrant workers, including those from the European Union, must register for a national insurance (NI) number. You can start work before you have an NI number, but you will be charged emergency tax until you have one.

 

Pay rates for migrant workers

As a migrant worker you are protected by the same laws that protect other workers in the UK. You should receive equal pay to British workers doing the same work.

 

The national minimum wage

The national minimum wage for workers aged 21 and over is £6.50 an hour. This is the lowest wage you can be paid per hour. The national minimum wage does depend on your age and is less if you are under 21.

The national minimum wage does not apply if you are genuinely self-employed.

If you are being paid per piece of work you finish rather than per hour, the total that you are paid must at least be equal to being paid the national minimum wage for the hours it takes you to do the work.

 

Payslips

You should receive a payslip either before or on the day you are paid. This should clearly show your total pay before tax and any deductions, as well as the amount you are actually being paid (your take-home pay). All deductions must be clearly listed.

 

Deductions

Tax and national insurance (NI) will be taken from your pay. How much is deducted depends on how much you earn.

No other deductions can be taken from your wages, unless they are written in your contract, or you have agreed to them with your employer before they are made. Any agreement must be confirmed in writing. 

Even if you have agreed to a deduction, your employer cannot take off money so that you end up being paid less than the minimum wage, except for accommodation. Even for accommodation there is a limit to how much your employer can take from your pay.

If you think your employer is deducting too much for accommodation then call the Pay and Work Rights Helpline on 0800 917 2368 or speak to your UNISON rep.

 

Help for UNISON members

If you’re a migrant worker from a country outside the European Union and need advice on immigration issues related to your work situation and right to work in the UK then get in touch.

UNISON provides free immigration telephone advice to UNISON members who have come to work in the UK from countries outside of the European Union. We work with the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) to provide this support.

If you have been a member of UNISON for more than four weeks and need immigration advice and information, please call UNISON Direct at 0845 355 0845. Your contact details will be passed on to a JCWI adviser who will call you on Tuesday, between 10am and 4pm.

When calling UNISON Direct, please be ready to give your full name, contact phone numbers and your UNISON membership number.

Need more information?

Request information or make a general enquiry.

Complete the general enquiry form

Help make a difference

Asian woman. Bigstock

Want to do something more?

You can help your colleagues and fellow UNISON members tackle this and other issues by becoming a UNISON rep or workplace contact. 

Get active in UNISON

Legal disclaimer

The information contained within this article is not a complete or final statement of the law and is based on the laws of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. While UNISON has sought to ensure that the information is accurate and up to date, it is not responsible and will not be held liable for any inaccuracies and their consequences, including any loss arising from relying on this information. If you are a UNISON member with a legal problem, please contact your branch or region as soon as possible for advice.