Introduction to working in Northern Ireland

People who work in the United Kingdom (UK) have a number of employment rights and responsibilities - find out what they are and where to get further information.

Getting started

If you're not from the UK or another part of the European Union, you'll usually need permission to work in Northern Ireland and may require a work permit.

There are lots of ways of finding a job, including through personal contacts and Jobs and Benefits Offices. For further advice see looking for work.

You can also improve your chances of getting a job by getting training and learning for work to improve your skills.

Check if your qualifications are recognised

If you are resident in Northern Ireland,  a qualifications equivalence service is available to check your qualifications against the UK equivalents. This service is free of charge and available from the following offices:

Staff at the offices will access the UK National Recognition Information Centre (NARIC) databases on your behalf, and provide you with comparison information and advice on your specific qualifications. Your country of origin needs to be listed on the NARIC databases to avail of this service.

You will need to have a copy of your qualification certificates or details. 

Free movement of professionals across the EU

If you are a non-UK National from a member state within the EU, EEA or Switzerland with professional qualifications and wish to work in Northern Ireland you may be eligible for automatic or general recognition of your qualifications depending on your profession.

ECCTIS Limited is the National Contact Point (NCP) for Professional Qualifications in the United Kingdom. UK NCP will be able to guide you through how to get recognition of your professional qualifications as well as clarifying the regulations surrounding your profession in the UK. For more information go to:

Help in foreign languages

A guide for migrant workers on your employment rights and responsibilities is available in different languages. Visit the following section and choose your language:

Your terms and conditions of employment

Most people who work in the UK are called 'employees', with an employment contract. The law says this must have certain terms, and it can usually only be changed with your agreement.

Other kinds of worker include agency workers, contractors and self-employed people. Their terms and conditions vary, although all workers have certain basic rights.

Money matters

Almost all workers in the UK who are over 16-years-old have the right by law to get a minimum hourly wage. Find out more about the National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage.

You will probably have to pay tax and National Insurance contributions, which your employer will take from your wages. There may be other deductions taken from your pay, but these must be agreed by you in writing. Your employer should give you a 'payslip' showing what has been taken.

If you're off work for four days or more because of sickness, you'll probably be able to get Statutory Sick Pay for up to 28 weeks. You'll need a doctor's certificate for any periods of sickness of more than seven days.

Health and safety at work

The UK has strict rules about health and safety at work. Employers must provide you with a safe place to work and ensure that risks are kept to a minimum. Workers have a responsibility to ensure that they don't put themselves or other employees in danger.

Working hours and time off

There are limits to the number of hours that you can be made to work, although you can choose to work more than the limit if you want to. You have the right by law to a certain amount of time off each week, depending on the job you do and the hours you work.

You also have the right to a minimum amount of paid holiday each year.

You also have the right to ask for flexible working, that means the right to ask to change your hours or shift pattern. Your employer doesn't have to agree to your request if there's a good business reason why it wouldn't work however.

Work and the family

Most workers in the UK can take paid time off work for the birth or adoption of a child. For further information on the amount of time that can be taken and financial support visit:

Discrimination at work

The UK has strict laws on discrimination (for instance, treating someone differently for no good reason). It's illegal to discriminate against someone because of their gender, sexual orientation, disability, race, colour, ethnic background, religion or age.

It's also illegal to refuse to employ someone because of their membership or non-membership of a trade union.

Leaving a job

There are very few limits on you leaving your job and getting another one, although you're expected to stick to the terms of your contract, usually by giving proper notice. There are laws to protect you against unfair dismissal (being sacked for no good reason).

If you're made redundant - sacked because of lack of work for you to do - you may get a payment if you have been in the job for long enough. Further information on your rights available on the pages below.

Trade unions and what they can do for you

Trade unions are organisations for workers that provide services which include talking to employers about pay and working conditions. Many unions offer free legal advice, financial help, sickness benefits and education.

Resolving problems

If you have problems at work and you're not given your legal rights, there are various ways to sort this out. An Industrial Tribunal will hear cases that involve work problems, but you should try to sort out problems with your employer first.

Most employers have a company complaints procedure known legally as a 'grievance procedure' that you can use.

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