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UCL Careers Explains…What to do if you have not been paid by an employer

skye.aitken21 January 2020

A woman looking a her laptop screen whilst biting a pencil

Any work that you’ve completed in the UK is subject to National Minimum Wage legislation. You’re therefore entitled to be paid at least the National Minimum Wage unless you fall under a category of worker that is not entitled to the National Minimum Wage –  https://www.gov.uk/national-minimum-wage/who-gets-the-minimum-wage.

If you’ve not been paid, and you are entitled to be, you should reach out to your employer and check what’s happening. If you have details of what you are expecting to be paid in writing then ensure you have those to hand. At this point there may just be an easily resolved misunderstanding. There are a few things that might have happened:

  • You may have joined the organisation after the payroll cut off. Payroll can be weekly or monthly. You would therefore be paid for this work in the next pay run. However, if you are struggling financially your employer may be able to help you so do ask if they could pay you earlier.
  • It’s not payday. If you’re used to weekly pay then you may be surprised to find that many roles in the UK are paid monthly. Or potentially your new employer runs payroll at a different time of the month than you’re used to. Lots of employers will pay their employees at the end of the month.
  • Your employer might have the wrong bank details. Make sure you provided these correctly and on time.

Once you’ve spoken to your employer, you’ll hopefully have resolved the situation. However if this is not the case and you believe your employer is unwilling to pay you or has no intention of paying you in an acceptable timescale then you can seek advice from your local CAB, trade union, law centre or the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS).  See further information about not getting paid at https://beta.acas.org.uk/national-minimum-wage-entitlement/what-to-do-if-youre-not-getting-minimum-wage. You may potentially need to go to an Employment Tribunal.  For more details see https://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=1366

 

UCL Careers Explains…What to do if your job underpays you?

skye.aitken14 January 2020

Written by Katharine Evans, Internships and Vacancies Officer at UCL Careers.

A hand held out holding two coinsFirst off, don’t panic. If you are not a freelancer, you are likely to be legally entitled to receive a payslip – https://www.gov.uk/payslips. This will help you to see what is going on – it may be available through an online portal, through email, handed to you by your employer, or posted to your home. Payslips must be provided on or before payday.

Take a look at the amount that was deposited by your employer into your account, rather than your total account balance. Compare this deposit amount against your payslip.

Payslips must show:

  • Earnings before and after any deductions
  • Total amount of any deductions that you’ve paid, including:
    • National Insurance
    • Income Tax
    • Pension Contributions
    • Student loans (if you meet certain criteria)
  • If you get paid per hour, your payslip has to show how many hours you’ve worked.

Have a look at all the information provided on your payslip, this will help you see how your pay is worked out. The first things to look at when checking you’ve been paid correctly are:

  • Total earnings before deductions – if this matches what you expected it’s likely that you didn’t account for a standard deduction, and your employer has paid you the right rate for the correct amount of hours. It’s worth checking where the deduction came from so you know if it’s a one off, or if this is the standard.
  • Tax rates – have you paid more tax than you were expecting?
  • Hours worked—have you been paid for the number of hours you actually worked?
  • Pay rate – Were these hours paid at the correct rate?
  • Additional pay—If you were expecting overtime, commission or bonuses were these paid? Are you sure they were due in this pay cycle?
  • Holiday pay – were you paid for the annual leave you took? Did you have enough annual leave allowance?
  • Sick pay—If you were off sick this may mean reduced pay
  • Deductions – your employer should clearly state any deductions made, were these lawful deductions?
  • Student Loans– You may have earnt over the threshold for repayment meaning that this has been lawfully deducted from your salary, or if you graduated last year you might now be eligible to pay. Student loan repayments begin on the 6th of April the year after you graduate/leave your course.

How to sort out the issue

If the reason you’ve been underpaid is due to something controlled by your employer it’s worth starting to sort this out by talking to them. Things that can be resolved by your employer include: Hours worked; pay rate; holiday pay; bonuses, overtime, and commission; and sick pay. It is helpful if you work out how much you were expecting and where the discrepancy lies to make resolution easier. If the mistake was made by your employer then you can ask to be paid the additional amount before the next payday. You should not need to wait.

If the mistake was on your side then you may have to wait until the next payday, however in most cases you will need to be paid correctly. If you input your hours incorrectly then your employer must pay you for the time worked, as stipulated in your contract.

If this is your final paycheque from an employer you may find that there are some deductions compared to your normal pay. A common reason for this is that you’ve used more holiday that you’ve accrued. The additional annual leave will be recouped from your final cheque. As long as you’ve received the correct amount as detailed in your contract then this is standard practice.

If you don’t feel comfortable talking to your employer alone or you work in a larger organisation and don’t know where to direct your query then it might be a good idea to see whether you have an employee representative to help you approach your employer. If you are a member of a trade union then you can get in contactor if you’re a member of a trade union, then a union rep.

If your employer doesn’t resolve this issue, and you feel that you have been underpaid, and are entitled to some/all of the missing pay there are a range of next steps. You should start by seeking advice from your local CAB, trade union, law centre or the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (known as ACAS) – https://www.acas.org.uk/.  ACAS provide advice and arrange settlements between employers and workers.

If your underpayment has been caused by paying too much tax this can be easily resolved. You should have provided your new employer with your P45 from your old role when starting this should have informed them of your tax code, which would have been passed on to HMRC so you could be taxed accordingly. If you’ve just started a new job and not worked before or did not supply a P45, you might pay tax through an emergency tax code. This could mean you get less money than you should until HM Revenue and Customs updates its records. Normally this will only be for a month or two at the most. If you’ve been in your job for more than 3 months and think your employer has taken too much money for tax, you’ll need to check your tax code and let HMRC know if it’s wrong. Your pay will be adjusted so you pay the right amount of tax over the tax year.

If you worked during the holidays, or in a short term role, and were taxed as your income met the personal allowance threshold – https://www.gov.uk/income-tax-rates, but are now not working, or are earning below the tax threshold, then you can receive a rebate. This typically occurs after the beginning of the tax year, with most refunds being issued through your company’s payroll (PAYE) or direct from HMRC around June. See https://www.litrg.org.uk/tax-guides/tax-basics/how-do-i-claim-tax-back/how-do-i-claim-back-tax-i-have-overpaid-through-paye#toc-how-do-i-claim-a-refund-for-the-current-tax-year-if-i-don-t-want-to-wait-for-a-p800-The quickest way to address this is through phoning HMRC rather than going through your employer.

UCL Careers Explains…Deductions from your pay if you work in the UK

skye.aitken10 December 2019

Written by Katharine Evans, Internships and Vacancies Officer at UCL Careers.

Under the Employment Rights Act, you have the right not to suffer ‘unauthorised deductions from wages’. There will be some automatic deductions from your pay that are authorised by law – namely income tax, national insurance and student loan repayments

Your employer is not allowed to make deductions unless:

  • It’s required or allowed by law, for example National Insurance, income tax or student loan repayments
  • You agree in writing
  • Your contract says they can – for example, some retail contracts have specific deductions
  • There’s a statutory payment due to a public authority
  • You have not worked due to taking part in a strike or industrial action
  • There’s been an earlier overpayment of wages or expenses
  • It’s a result of a court order

If you work for an employer who pays you a salary directly into your bank account you are likely to be earning via Pay As You Earn (PAYE). Deductions for Income Tax and National Insurance will be made automatically under PAYE.

Income tax is charged on most types of income, including salaries and wages from jobs. If you earn under a certain amount you will not charged income tax – this is called your Personal allowance. For the 2019/20 tax year (from 6th April 2019 to 5 April 2020) this is set at £12,500. You pay different tax rates depending on earnings:

  • Up to £12,500 = 0% tax rate
  • £12,501-£50,000 = 20% tax rate
  • £50,001-£150,000 = 40% tax rate
  • Over £150,000 = 45% tax rate

You only pay the respective tax rate on the income in each tax band. For example if you were to earn £55,000 then you only pay 40% tax on the £5,000 in that tax band. For the lower part of your earnings, you’ll still pay the appropriate 20% or 0%.

Student loans, bursaries and grants do not count toward your personal allowance. The above income tax brackets only apply to England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. If you’re working in Scotland for more than half the year, then this information won’t apply and the taxes you pay will differ- however chances are you’re working in London!

If you are an international student you may be subject to different tax rules. The rules differ from country to country so it is worth getting further advice to see if this applies to you, and to make sure you are not being double taxed – see https://www.taxguideforstudents.org.uk/types-of-student/international-students/residence-and-domicile/what-is-a-double-taxation-agreement#emin for more information on this.

National insurance contributions are a tax made up of both employer contributions and employee contributions You do not need to worry about the employer contributions.

The contributions help to build your entitlement to certain state benefits, such as the State Pension, Job Seeker’s Allowance, and Maternity Allowance.

National Insurance contributions aren’t worked out on an annual basis like Income Tax, instead they’re worked out on a weekly basis:

  • 12% of your weekly earnings between £166 and £962
  • 2% of your weekly earnings above £962.

If you want to work out how much Income Tax and National Insurance you should be paying you can use the gov.uk calculator – https://www.gov.uk/estimate-income-tax

UCL Careers Explains…Why you need a National Insurance number and how to get one

skye.aitken3 December 2019

Written by Katharine Evans, Internships and Vacancies Officer at UCL Careers.

A person writing at a deskWhy you need a National Insurance Number

National insurance is a tax on your earnings that goes into the National Insurance Fund which pays for various benefits. You pay national insurance contributions between the ages of 16 and state pension age on earnings.

Your National Insurance number is unique to you throughout your life but you cannot use it as a form of ID. It is made up of 2 letters, 6 numbers and a final letter. Such as: QQ 12 34 56 C.

Everyone who wants to work in the UK must have a national insurance number. You can start work without one but you must then apply immediately. The law requires you to apply for NI number if you do not already have one and you are working or are intending to work.

How to get a National Insurance Number

If you are looking for work, starting work or setting up as a self-employed person, you will need a national insurance number. If you have the right to work in the UK (even if it is only part-time), you will need to telephone The National Insurance Number Application line on 0800 141 2075, lines are open Monday-Friday 8am-6pm. You will need to phone from the UK. You may be required to attend an ‘Evidence of identity’ interview.

There are many services online that offer to get you an NI number for a fee. These sites should be avoided, they don’t provide you with any advantage, and instead charge you for their services, when it’s easy to go the official route and get your national insurance number for free.

Once your application is successful, you will receive a letter confirming your NI number. Take good care of this as it is your reminder of your NI number and you will need to use it when you contact HM Revenue and Customs or the Department for Work and Pensions. As soon as you have your NI number, you should tell your employer.

UCL Careers Explains…Starting a new role

skye.aitken28 November 2019

Written by Katharine Evans, Internships and Vacancies Officer at UCL Careers.

This is the first in a series of blog posts that will help you understand more about contractual information, payment for your work, Income Tax and National Insurance.

Today’s blog post has been designed to help you understand what employers should be providing you with when they offer you a job.

A person working on a laptopJob Details

When you are offered a job it’s an exciting time and you will likely be really happy to have secured a position. Once you have agreed to take the role you must ensure that you are given all the details that you need about it. It’s important to make sure that you have the information in writing from your new employer – this could be in the form of a formal document or an email exchange. Your employer is legally obliged to provide the terms and conditions of employment within two months of your starting date, but it is best if you can go over the details with your employer as soon as you join the company. Often an employer will give you details verbally however, the basic idea behind having the details in writing is to give you and your employer information that you can both refer back to if any disputes arise. As such the contract / email exchange should include all of the following:

  • The name of the employer and employee
  • The job title
  • Date of commencement of employment
  • Duration of employment – is it for a fixed period or ongoing?
  • Place of work
  • Rate of pay and when you will be paid
  • Normal hours of work
    • Check the normal working hours and look for mentions of compulsory overtime, or whether time off in lieu (TOIL) is given. Some employers limit the hours that can be worked and others may ask you to opt out of the “working time directive which aims to limit hours to 48 hours per week – see https://www.gov.uk/maximum-weekly-working-hours”
  • Holiday entitlement and holiday pay
    • All full time UK workers are entitled to a minimum of 28 days of annual leave. This is made up of 20 annual leave days plus 8 bank holidays.
    • Part time workers are entitled to the pro rata equivalent.
    • If you’re working on a zero hours contract, or a temporary role you may find that you accrue holiday hours for each hour worked or you may be paid holiday pay separately from your hourly pay, this equates to 12.07%.
  • Pension scheme
  • Sick pay
  • Notice period
  • Disciplinary rules and procedure
  • Grievance procedure

Payment

If you’re working a job with set hours your pay may be set out as a pro-rated annual salary – for more information about this see https://www.themix.org.uk/work-and-study/workers-rights-and-pay/pro-rata-pay-1685.html. If you’re being paid hourly and you often work different hours each week, then your employer should let you know in writing how much you’re paid per hour, and your standard working hours. It’s important to find out how your hours are worked out. Eg. are they recorded through clocking in? Do you complete timesheets? Or is each shift recorded by your manager? Regardless it’s a good idea for you to also make a record of the hours you work. You should also make sure that you know whether your breaks are paid or unpaid and whether overtime, or weekends and night shifts are paid at a different rate.

Occasionally your employer may want to change the terms of your employment. Even if you have only been given the terms verbally the employer must obtain written permission from you for any changes. Any changes that you agree to must be backed up with a written statement within one month of the changes taking place.