Information for refugees – working

General information on working in the UK and how to find a job

2 men working in a factory

This information will help you will learn about:

  • Work in the UK
  • How to find a job
  • Paying taxes
  • Financial support while you are not working, or you are on a low income
  • Your employment rights and how the law protects you at work

Employment opportunities

Finding a job will not only increase your income but will help you settle into your new life. There are many different kinds of jobs. Major industries in the UK include agriculture, production and services.

Some jobs will require qualifications or skills including speaking English. It may take time to build your skills and gain experience until you find a suitable job.
Many jobs require you to work ‘normal working hours’, often 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday. Your normal working hours will be fixed by your employment contract. For some jobs you may be expected to work in the evenings, weekends or at night.

Part-time jobs are also available. Some people may choose to work part-time in order to look after children, support themselves while studying or alongside another part-time job to increase their earnings.

Most people between 18 and 66 years old are expected to find work unless they are studying, caring for children or other family members or unable to work due to health issues. From the age of 16, it is possible to start to work for a few hours alongside studies or take on an apprenticeship.

Getting a job

In order to work in the UK, you will need your National Insurance number (NINO or NI number), which will be printed on your BRP. This is a unique set of letters and numbers for each person. It records the tax and National Insurance contributions you make, which pay for your healthcare and other public services. You cannot work or receive benefits without your NI number.

To get help to find a job, you should:

  • Visit your local Jobcentre Plus – the Jobcentre can help you find jobs or direct you to training to help you get a job. There are two Jobcentres in North Lincolnshire: Laneham Street, Scunthorpe and King Street, Barton-upon-Humber. The telephone number for all Jobcentres is 0800 169 0190
  • Look in local and national newspapers or recruitment websites where jobs are advertised
  • Register with a recruitment agency who can find jobs for you
  • Ask friends and relatives if they know of any available jobs where they work
  • Visit local companies to enquire about job vacancies
  • For the latest vacancies within the Council visit the jobs page.

Applying for a job

Once you have identified a job you want to do, you must submit an application. You must carefully read what information the employer has asked for. Usually this is either an application form, or a CV (curriculum vitae) and a covering letter.

A CV is a formal list of your qualifications and experience. A covering letter is a short description that states why you are applying for the job and why you think you meet the requirements in the job description advertised. Your Jobcentre Plus work coach can arrange help for you to prepare these if required.
Once the application is submitted, you may be invited to an interview. The format of interviews can vary. For example, you may be asked a series of questions in a face-to-face meeting or you may be given a trial shift where you do the job for a day or part of a day. You should pay close attention to the instructions for any interview you are offered.

Employers may also ask to see your documentation. It will help if you can bring your original documents such as your BRP which is evidence of your right to work in the UK, college diplomas and any other proof of your qualifications and experience to show to employers. Employers may also ask for references from people who can verify your suitability for employment (such as a former manager, teacher or colleague). You can also go online to www.gov.uk/prove-right-to-work which allows you to authorise an employer to access your data to prove that you have the right to work in the UK.

Skills and language

Many newcomers face challenges in finding employment. There are other people in your area also looking for jobs, and you will face competition for jobs you apply for. Any skills and experience you have will help you to apply for jobs. Restrictions will apply to certain professions such as medicine, law and engineering. You may have to take exams to obtain the required licence to practise. If you are already trained or have qualifications in a profession, you may be able to practise in the UK as long as your qualifications are recognised in the UK.

Diplomas from your country are not automatically recognised in the UK. So, you should contact a potential employer or seek advice from your Jobcentre Plus work coach to ask if your qualifications will be accepted.

English is the usual working language in England. Most jobs will need employees to speak a minimum level of English. Learning and improving your English will increase job opportunities for you and will also help you to settle into your new life.

Your Jobcentre Plus work coach can help arrange specific skills training to help you find a job.

Benefits – supporting you to find work

Benefits are monetary payments from the government to help you and your family live in the UK. When you have been recognised as a refugee, you can apply for benefits. You should do this straightaway, do not delay.

You can contact your local Citizens Advice Centre for guidance on how to apply and for a better idea of whether you are eligible. The local centre for North Lincolnshire is located inside Scunthorpe Central, the large library on Carlton Street, Scunthorpe. They can also be contacted on 01724 870941. You can also use the national Citizens Advice Adviceline on 03444 111 444.

Universal Credit

Universal Credit is a payment from the UK government to help you and your family live in the UK. Universal Credit is paid monthly, and you apply for it online. You might also need to phone the Universal Credit helpline on 0800 328 5644 to book an interview with a work coach at a Jobcentre. You’ll be told if you need to do this after you apply.

To receive Universal Credit, you’ll make an agreement called a ‘Claimant Commitment’ with your Jobcentre work coach. What you do depends on your situation, whether you are looking for work, or whether you have a caring responsibility or a health condition that prevent you from working. You might need to do activities such as: write a CV; look and apply for jobs; or go on training courses.

Your Universal Credit payment is made up of a standard allowance and any extra amounts that apply to you, for example if you: have children; have a disability or health condition which prevents you from working; or need help paying your rent.

Universal Credit can be used to pay for your living expenses such as food, clothing, transport, household bills and anything you want to buy.

You will also be eligible to apply for housing benefit.

Contact the Universal Credit helpline on 0800 328 5644 if:

  • You cannot use digital services at all, this might be due to disability or your circumstances
  • You have a question about your claim and cannot access your online claim.

Help to Claim

Help to Claim can support you in the early stages of your Universal Credit claim, from the online application, through to support with your application before your first full payment. It’s a free, independent, confidential and impartial service provided by trained advisers from Citizens Advice. They can help with things like how to gather evidence for your application or how to prepare for your first Jobcentre appointment. Phone 0800 144 8 144 for this service.


The state pension age is currently 66 years old. The age at which you may become entitled to both State Pension and Pension Credit is determined by your date of birth. You can check the date at which you may qualify on the Government website.

If you are of state pension age you do not have to look for work. You can contact the Pension Service on 0800 731 0469 for information and advice about entitlement to benefits.

Paying tax

If you work, you have a responsibility to pay the right amount of income tax. Income tax is a set percentage of your yearly income. If you are employed by someone else, it is often deducted directly from your monthly salary through a system called Pay As You Earn (PAYE).

If you are not employed by a company or another person but earn an income, you have a responsibility to declare that income and pay the right amount of tax.
The amount of tax you pay depends on how much you earn.