What to Expect at Your New Job

Nearly everyone gets a bit nervous before they start a new job. It always takes a little time to learn a new job and to find out where everything is. Here is some info to help you understand some of the more confusing aspects of work life. 

Employment Contract

All employees are entitled to a written contract of employment stating their terms and conditions of employment (holidays and pay, notice to be served, hours to be worked in a week). You should be given this within two months of starting a job. Keep all letters or papers an employer gives you. Even if you don’t get anything in writing, you still have rights as an employee. 

Always check what is written in a contract before signing. It can be difficult, but always ask to take your contract away to look at it - e.g. if you are asked to sign at an interview. Make sure that you are getting a good and fair deal. 

You can get an employment expert to check it over by taking it to your local Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB). To find where you nearest office is, check the Citizens Advice Bureau website.

Money Money Money

It is important that you get paid the amount agreed at your interview or in your contract of employment. When you start work, you should give your employer your National Insurance number and your P45 (if you’ve had an employer before). 

It is not unusual to have ‘lying time’. This means you will not get paid until the end of your second week or have a proportion of your pay held back if you are paid monthly. This money is held by the employer as security in case you leave without working notice. It will be paid to you at the end of your time with that employer. 

You are legally entitled to an itemised payslip which shows the breakdown of your gross pay (the total amount of pay before everything gets taken off), the tax you pay, your National Insurance contributions, deductions for a pension and/or union, and finally your net pay (the amount you are left with). 

If you are paid hourly, make sure you are paid for the number of hours you work. It’s worth keeping a note of all the time you’ve worked in a week if you get paid per hour, that way you can accurately check if you’ve been paid the correct amount of hours.


You can earn a certain amount of money before the government taxes you. 

Get further information about tax allowances from any Tax Office, visit the HM Revenue and Customs website, or go to your nearest Citizens Advice Bureau.

National Insurance Number

If you earn over a certain income threshold you have to pay National Insurance, which comes off your pay at the same time as income tax. Both of these deductions go towards paying for things like education, benefits and the NHS. You can find out more about your tax code on Gov.UK.

The National Minimum Wage

An employer must pay their workers a minimum amount as defined by law. This is called the National Minimum wage. 

This came into force in April 1999 and as of 1st April 2019 the rates are:

  • £8.21 if you're 25 and over
  • £7.70 if you're 21-24
  • £6.15 if you're 18-20
  • £4.35 if you're under 18
  • £3.90 if you're an apprentice under 19, or in the first year of your apprenticeship.

If you're not sure if you're being paid the right amount, or need further advice about the National Minimum Wage, you can contact the ACAS Helpline on 0300 123 1100.

Holiday Pay

Almost all workers are legally entitled to 5.6 weeks’ paid holiday a year (note: a week’s leave is equal to a working week, i.e. if you work a three day week you are entitled to 16.8 days leave). Check your contract. Even if you have no written contract, if you’ve been with your employer for 13 continuous weeks or more, you are usually entitled to holiday pay. It is your responsibility to inform the employer when you want time off. Find out more about your holiday entitlements on the Gov.UK website.

If you leave your employer and haven’t taken all your holidays in the leave year before you finish, you may be entitled to some outstanding holiday pay. (Note: no employee has a statutory right to paid public and bank holidays). 

If you have problems with this contact a Citizens Advice Bureau. Or you can contact ACAS who can help with any employment law questions.

Working time Regulations

These regulations cover many aspects of employment, but are particularly significant in relation to the length of time you are legally permitted to work in any one day. You are entitled to:

  • one day off each week or two consecutive days off in a fortnight
  • 11 consecutive hours' rest in any 24-hour period
  • at least a 20 minute break if they will work longer than six hours. However organisations often allow longer and/or more frequent breaks.
  • not work on average more than 48 hours per week. Individuals may choose to work longer by "opting out"

There are special regulations for young workers (under 18 but over 16) which include:

  • not working for more than eight hours per day
  • a limit of 40 hours work per week
  • having a rest break of 30 minutes if their shift lasts more than 4.5 hours
  • two days off each week

Find out more about employment, work and careers over on our W.O.R.K campaign page.