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Expats Working in the United Kingdom

Author: Jim Newham
Submitted: January 2015

*In the referendum of 23rd June 2016, a majority of UK voted to leave the European Union. At present, however, until October 2018 at the very earliest, this decision will not have any effect whatsoever on UK immigration laws.

Permission to Work

The UK is the second most popular country in the world for job-seeking immigrants. In recent years, many immigrant workers have been from new European Union member states. In theory, any EU citizen has the right to work in any EU country they want. In practice, some countries are easier to get into than others. This is the case for the UK, where immigration laws have been tightened considerably in recent years.

If you are from outside the European Economic Area or Switzerland, permission to work in the UK depends on what skills you can bring to the country. This will be assessed by the UK Border Agency using a points system, in which more points are given for the skills that are most desirable in the UK. Depending on how many points you get, your visa category will be in one of five tiers, four of which apply to workers.

If you are an investor, entrepreneur or are otherwise highly talented, you may be granted a Tier 1 visa. This means that you are considered very valuable to Britain and will be allowed into the UK without the need of a job offer or sponsorship. The number of Tier 1 immigrants per year is highly restricted. All other immigrants who come to the UK to work will need a firm offer of employment and a certificate of sponsorship from their prospective employer in order to be considered for a work visa. There is also the possibility of acquiring an Investor visa.

Tier 2 of the points-based system is for skilled workers. Most immigrants who come into this category will be those with a Tier 2 (General) visa, in job sectors such as nursing, care work and catering. These people have been offered a job in a skill area which is in short supply in Britain. If you are in this category, after a number of years you may become eligible for permanent residence in the UK.

Tiers 3 and 5 are for less skilled or unskilled workers. As with Tier 2 workers, immigrants can only be offered a job if there are no local candidates. If you are in either of these categories, your stay in the UK is a temporary one - typically you will only be allowed to stay in the UK for one or two years.


Labour Conditions

Expats working for a British company/organisation will find that overall work conditions in the UK are at a high standard. The British Labour Law offers ample protections for workers. There are also strict anti-discrimination and equal opportunities regulations in place. However, the individual worker’s rights and obligations will also depend on the nature of your contract and employment status.

In general nearly all workers in the UK are entitled to at least 5.6 weeks of paid annual leave as well as to paid sick leave in case of sickness. Maternity leave is set at 52 weeks and mothers are entitled to maternity pay for up to 39 weeks. Fathers are permitted to take 1-2 weeks of ordinary paternity leave and 26 additional weeks if their partner has already returned to work.

Salaries vary greatly, depending on the sector, position and region where you work. However, strict regulations exist regarding minimum payment. The National Minimum Wage is readjusted annually and is currently set at £6.19 per hour for workers aged 21 and over. This rate will increase to £6.31 per hour from 1 October 2013.

For more information on working conditions in the UK see the Government Website on Working and the Citizens Advice Website on Rights at Work.




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