Starting your first job can be an exciting but nerve-wracking experience. If you're starting work for the first time, it's important to know what's expected of you in the job as well as your rights and what you're entitled to.
NGTU offers ten essential tips for those starting their first job:
- What to wear?
- Your rights
- Your contract
- Your pay
- Getting a P46
- Training opportunities
- Health and safety
- Words of advice
To ease you into your new job, most companies will use your first day or few days as an "induction" to introduce you to the people you will be working with, show you around and tell you about what you will be doing on a day-to-day basis. This is the best opportunity to ask any questions about the job and your employer, so if you do have any worries or concerns, it's a good idea to raise them now.
2. What to wear?
When you begin your new job, make sure you know your place of work's dress code so that you dress appropriately, companies will often give you a copy of these so read through any information you get. The general advice is to look smart, be keen and show that you are enthusiastic and motivated. Start as you mean to continue, so ensure that you turn up on time and that you are polite with your colleagues. In your first few days you are likely to meet a lot of new people, so do your best to remember people's names. If you are uncertain or unclear about anything, take advantage of your status as a new employee and don't be afraid to ask questions.
Most places of work operate some form of appraisal or performance management so as an employee you can expect to receive feedback on your performance at work, which may include some constructive criticism on how to improve at doing your job. It's important that you listen to everything your manager says, learn from their experience and keep trying to make progress. Don't take feedback personally, it's a normal part of any job and if taken on board will make you better at your job and you'll progress quicker and earn more!
4. Your rights
It's your employer's responsibility to ensure you have the information and training to do your job, and to ensure your health and safety in the workplace. Those above school leaving age but under the age of 18 are classified as "young workers" and have different employment rights from everyone else. You should get longer rest periods and are restricted from working at night. If you're unsure about your rights or have concerns, speak to your local Citizen's Advice Bureau.
5. Your contract
When you start working, there should be a contract between you and your employer. Although this isn't necessarily in writing or signed, the contract covers your basic rights at work, such as the right to be paid, so it's pretty important stuff!
As an employee, you should receive a written statement of employment within two months of your start date with your rate of pay, the number of holiday days you get, the hours you should be working per week and the notice that must be given if either you or your employer wants to end your contract. If you don't get one, ask your employer about it. If you're doing an apprenticeship, you must have a written contract that is signed by your employer.
6. Your pay
As an employee you have the right to know how much you are paid and how often. You are entitled to an individual pay statement from your employer. Along with information about how much you've been paid, your pay slip should tell you how much tax and national insurance has been deducted from your wages, your tax code and your employee number.
Keep every pay slip in a safe place somewhere at home. If you've worked for part of the year, or just started a new job, you may have paid too much tax, so you will need these details to claim it back. If you don't get a pay slip, tell your manager or supervisor.
The national minimum wage in 2013 is £5.03 for workers aged 18 to 20 and £6.31 for those aged over 21, it is less for those aged 16-18 and apprentices. You can check the current rates of pay here https://www.gov.uk/national-minimum-wage-rates If you aren't being paid the national minimum wage you can make a complaint through the Pay and Work Rights helpline.
7. Getting a P46
When you become an employee your employer is responsible for deducting income tax and national insurance from your salary before you receive it. This system is called Pay As You Earn (PAYE).
If you're starting your first job and don't have a P45 (a record of your pay and employment history) your employer will give you a P46 form to fill in and sign. HM Revenue and Customs will process your P46 and issue a tax code to you and a copy of the coding notice to your employer who'll use it to work out how much tax to deduct from your pay.
8. Training opportunities
Working is a great way of learning new skills. Chances to do new things will come up quite regularly at work, so make the most of every training opportunity that comes your way. Even if it's something which doesn't appear relevant now, it may well prove useful in the future.
If you find a training course that you want to do, your employer may pay for the costs if they feel that it will benefit your work. Talk to your manager to find out about the training opportunities and support available from your company. You may also be entitled to time off work if you're studying for certain qualifications in your spare time.
Please see our Traineeships section for the latest opportunities.
9. Health and Safety
An employer has a responsibility to look after your health and safety at work, so you should be told about where all the safety equipment, fire exits and first aid kits are located, as well as whether you need any special clothing or protection to do certain parts of your job.
If you're working in a kitchen or a workshop, your work may involve using equipment that can be dangerous. Before letting you use any pieces of equipment, your employer should make sure that you're fully trained on how to use it safely. Do not try to use any piece of equipment before you have been given the appropriate training.
If you take time off from work due to illness, you might be entitled to sick pay. If your employer runs their own sick pay scheme it is a 'company sick pay scheme' and you will be paid what is specified in your contract. If not, your employer should still pay you Statutory Sick Pay (SSP).
10. Words of advice
Jemma Pearce, a Recruitment Executive from PGL Travel offers the following advice to young people starting their first job:
It's ok to ask your new colleagues or manager for help or advice – be frank and open.
Research the company before you arrive – look online. This often gives you a 'feel' for the working environment and the pride and history of the company.
Just try to be helpful generally, even if it's not in your direct area of work. Your colleagues and manager will remember it.
Use your initiative and be resourceful and innovative.
Be honest: don't try to take on more than you are comfortable with and don't be afraid to ask questions. Everyone was in your position once and all of your colleagues, no matter where they are in company's corporate ladder, are human and would no doubt preferred you asked a question to prevent any potential minor issues in the long run!
Matthew Brook an Activity Instructor and Group Leader at PGL in Winmarleigh Hall, Lancashire, explains how he befitted from the help he was given:
"When I first arrived I wasn't very confident at meeting new people for the first time, but after being in my first job with PGL, I am more confident and better at speaking in public. I have made some amazing friends that I will remember forever and spent my spare time with them going climbing. I wouldn't have thought to do this without working with other like-minded people. I love my job and the amount of self-confidence and job satisfaction I have gained from it is overwhelming.