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Migrant workers

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, have the right to be paid annual leave and statutory sick pay, and must pay tax and national insurance.

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 £6.70 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.


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.


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.


Migrant workers

  • Can my employer legally deduct costs for accommodation from my wages?

    Yes, it is legal for an employer to deduct costs for accommodation they provide to workers. But there is a limit to how much an employer can deduct. To find out if your employer is taking a legal amount, call the Pay and Work Rights Helpline on 0800 917 2368.

  • Can my employer pay me less than the national minimum wage if it’s in my contract?

    No, you have the legal right to be paid the minimum wage. Your contract cannot take away this right. However, you contract can include deductions that can be made to your pay but, save in respect of limited amounts in respect of accommodation, you must still be paid national minimum wage after these deductions have been made.

  • Do migrant workers get paid annual leave?

    If you work five days a week, you are entitled to 28 days of paid annual leave a year.

  • Do migrant workers get sick pay?

    Yes, if you are a migrant worker you have the same right to statutory sick pay as British workers.