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National Insurance, minimum wage and your rights at work

National insurance

International students who are looking for paid work in the UK will need to apply for an NI number.

You may be required to attend an appointment at your local Jobcentre Plus. The nearest office for most students is: Rusholme Jobcentre Plus, 96 Wilmslow Road, Manchester.
Due to the volume of applicants, it often takes time to receive a NI number. In the meantime, your employer may be able to create a temporary number for you. You must, however, remember to give them your proper number when you receive it. If you continue to use a temporary number, you will pay more tax than you should!

Minimum wage

The minimum wage act sets a statutory minimum level of pay for most workers, which usually rises each year.

Tips do not count as part of minimum wage. However, you may need to pay tax on any tips you receive.

The Act does not cover voluntary work for a registered charity, and does not apply in all circumstances. However, unless undertaking work experience specifically as part of your course, you should be paid the minimum wage. As a general rule, vacancies advertised through your Careers Service pay at least the higher rate (21+ years).

You can find more information on the DirectGov website, a government website giving advice to employees about a range of employment and work-related matters, including the national minimum wage or via the Pay and Work Rights helpline.


Students are not automatically exempt from paying tax and NI. You can earn a certain amount each year without paying tax this is your Personal Allowance.

Your rights at work

When you work within the UK, you are protected by laws which aim to prevent unfair treatment of employees. Some become rights when (or before) you first start work. Others protect you after a period of time with an employer. If you familiarise yourself with these laws before you start a job, you will understand your rights and what you can and cannot reasonably expect from an employer.

Further sources of advice on your rights

Young workers

A number of laws exist to protect young workers between school leaving age and the age of 18, even if you are already studying at university.

  • If you are doing a job, placement or work experience, you are able to work for up to eight hours per day, and no more than 40 hours per week. You are covered by the minimum wage legislation.
  • Vacancies advertised by your Careers Service are usually paid at the higher rate of minimum wage.
  • You will not be able to undertake certain jobs which require workers to be 18 or over, for example working in a bar.
  • DirectGov website - Child employment has more details on rules applying to young workers.