United Kingdom Country Profile - Working Practices

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Working hours

The normal working hours in the UK are typically Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm. However, most organisations offer some movement within these times, and many operate systems of flexible working or variable hours to allow employees to work around other commitments.


Most permanent employees who work five days a week are entitled to a minimum of 28 days of paid holiday (annual leave) each year, although this total includes bank holidays. Employers may offer more annual leave at their discretion. Holiday entitlement for temporary staff and contractors works differently, and should be discussed with the employer before you start the post. Self-employed workers are not entitled to annual leave.

Bank holidays

The UK has eight regular bank holidays. Many organisations close on some or all of these dates, although in certain sectors, such as leisure and hospitality, businesses may remain open.

Bank holiday dates 2015

3 April Friday - Good Friday

6 April Monday - Easter Monday

4 May Monday - Early May bank holiday

25 May Monday - Spring bank holiday

31 August Monday - Summer bank holiday

25 December Friday - Christmas Day

28 December Monday - Boxing Day (substitute day)

Bank holiday dates 2016

1 January Friday - New Year’s Day

25 March Friday - Good Friday

28 March Monday - Easter Monday

2 May Monday - Early May bank holiday

30 May Monday - Spring bank holiday

29 August Monday - Summer bank holiday

26 December Monday - Boxing Day

27 December Tuesday - Christmas Day (substitute day)

If a bank holiday is on a weekend, a ‘substitute’ weekday becomes a bank holiday, normally the following Monday.

Visas and eligibility to work

Depending on your nationality, the reason for your visit and the duration of your stay, you may be required to obtain a visa before entering the UK. Visas confirm your entitlement to live and/or work in the country. You can find out whether you need a visa by taking a short questionnaire on the GOV.UK website. However, this is a complex area and the rules on who can and cannot work in the UK change regularly. As a general guide, remember: 

  • Never assume that you will be granted a visa
  • When your visa expires, you will not necessarily be granted an extension
  • Even if permission to work has been given, you cannot start work until a visa has been issued
  • Visas can still be refused even if permission to work has been granted
  • Your visa is your responsibility – if it lapses then your right to live and/or work in the UK may become invalid

For the latest advice, visit the UK Border Agency website.

Tax and National Insurance

To work in the UK, you must apply for a National Insurance number. This unique number will enable you to pay the tax and National Insurance that all workers in the UK contribute to. Tax rates vary depending on the amount that you earn, although not all earnings are subject to tax. Tax and National Insurance contributions are usually deducted directly from your pay through the PAYE (Pay As You Earn) system. More detailed information is available through the tax section on the GOV.UK website.


As National Insurance contributions are compulsory in the UK, the payments you make help to build your entitlement to the State Pension when you retire. In the past many UK employers operated optional workplace pension schemes. However, changes in the law in 2013 made it a requirement for employers to enrol the majority of their workforce in some kind of pension scheme. This system is called auto-enrolment and will be phased in between now and 2018. Speak to your employer to find out what kind of pension scheme they offer and how it applies to you.


Some foreign nationals living in the UK are entitled to state benefits. This will depend on your work and social situation, and may be means tested. To find out what you are able to claim, consult the benefits section on the GOV.UK website.


UK law offers disabled workers significant protection from discrimination on the grounds of their disability. The Equality Act 2010 outlines the rights of disabled workers, including reasonable adjustments in the workplace. Most businesses are more than willing to make any such adjustments, so disabled workers should speak to their employer about their individual requirements before taking up their post.

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