Introduction

Since the Second World War Poles have been living in Britain, but it was only since Poland joined the European Union in 2004 that its citizens were able to move between EU countries easily.This has had a considerable impact on the population of the UK.  The 2011 Census revealed that 579,000 Polish-born people were residing in the United Kingdom.  With over 546,000 people stating that Polish is their first language – more than 1% of the population  it is now officially Britain’s second language.  

If you are a Polish citizen and you are considering a move the UK then it is crucial that you understand what that will entail. In order to help you do that we have put together a guide that should help to educate you on the basic things you ought to know. This guide will also point you to the relevant organisations that you will need to be aware of to make sure that your transition to life in in Britain is painless. 

Jobs in Britain

The number one priority for any immigrant is work. Maciej Bukowski, of Warsaw’s Institute of Structural Research, made this fact clear when, in 2012, he stated that:

“The primary reason for migrating is a chance to get paid far more than you do in Poland, even if it means coping with a higher cost of living.”

Luckily for Polish people the open borders within the EU have allowed them to travel and work in Britain with relative ease. The National Bank of Poland has estimated that a typical migrant for Poland earns over €2,000 per month in Western Europe. It has been estimated that this is about four times what most earn in Poland in similar jobs. It therefore makes sense for most Poles to consider working to the UK so that they can send money back to Poland as remittance.   

As Poland is part of the European Economic Area (EEA) its citizens do not have to apply for permission to work in Britain.

Once you start work you will have to pay tax and National Insurance. If you work for someone then your employer will deduct both from your wages and they will ensure both are paid. If you are self-employed then you have to pay Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) yourself.

If you work in the building trade then you need to know about the Construction Industry Scheme (CIS) as it will affect how much tax you have to pay. If you are an employee then CIS does not apply to you, but if you work for yourself then you need to find out more about this.

IMPORTANT:You must have a National Insurance number to work in the UK.

To get a National Insurance number you need to call Jobcentre Plus. They will then send you an application form and sometimes you will be asked to go for an interview just so they can make sure that you qualify for a National Insurance number.   

Upon arrival into the country places to search for employment include internet job boards, local newspapers, trade magazines, recruitment agencies and Jobcentres. Your chances of success in gaining a job will be greatly increased if you can speak English so it is worth taking lessons before you arrive in the country.

Working Rights

One of the benefits of working in Britain is that your rights as a worker are enshrined in law. As well as that, perhaps due to Britain’s famously culturally diverse population, numerous organisations exist to make sure that you receive fair treatment (see ‘Useful Websites’ at the base of this page).     

The Trade Union Congress (TUC) is vocal in its support for equal rights for migrant workers. The TUC represents Britain’s Trade Unions. If you work in Britain then you have a right to join a union.  

When you start to receive your first wages do make sure that you are earning at least the National Minimum Wage. An easy way to do this involves using the Minimum Wage calculator.

Make sure that you get enough time off work. You have a right to a break from work of 20 minutes if your working day is greater than 6 hours in length and almost everyone is entitled to 5.6 weeks of paid holiday per annum (self-employed workers are not entitled to this). Employers must provide this or they are breaking the law.  

Remittances

In 2011 The World Bank estimated that the size of remittance flow from the UK to Poland was $1.2 billion dollars. This goes to show how important it is that you use a reliable money transfer service.

If you are aiming to earn money so that you can send lots of it back to Poland then you need to make sure that you will be able to send money there quickly and with a minimum of fuss. This way you will be able to send more money to Poland in the future.
Using Xendpay you reduce the risks involved when you pay cash to agents and you also reduce the significant transfer costs that banks, money sending bureaus and FX brokers inevitably charge. After comparing the costs involved sending money to Poland via various different methods, we found out that Xendpay was up to 6 times cheaper than what other parts of the market could offer.

Religious Considerations

Polish Catholics are present in large numbers in the UK. Around a third of Polish immigrants in Britain are practising Catholics, so it’s important that you appreciate the religious landscape that is present here.

As Polish numbers have increased, so to have the congregations in many Catholic churches meaning that a thriving religious community now exists. The Polish Catholic Mission in England and Wales is booming and there are now over 90 Polish missions in the UK and more than 200 locations where mass is celebrated on Sundays and public holidays. Over 100 Polish priests work in Britain with the mission. 

Education

In Britain the local councils run the state schools. They have a responsibility to make sure that all children living in an area receive a proper education and you have a legal responsibility to make sure all the children that you are responsible for attend school between the ages of 5-16. State education is provided free of charge.

Once you have moved to Britain you should make sure that you contact the council as soon as possible because spaces are always tight.

Useful Websites

  • Trade Union Congress – Here you are able to read your legal working rights as an immigrant worker in Polish. It is highly recommended that your properly familiarise yourself with these to ensure that you are being treated in the proper legal fashion.
  • Gangmasters Licensing Authority – This organisation sets out to protect workers from exploitation. Its focus is on helping workers in the agricultural, horticultural, forestry, shellfish and food and drinks industries. They have produced a concise summary of your working rights in this country and this can be read in Polish.    
  • Coram Children’s Legal Centre (CCLC) – The CCLC have a specialist project called the Migrant Children’s Project. The aim here is to makes sure that every child is legally protected and supported. This project happily provides legal advice on relevant issues including education, healthcare and accommodation.   
  • Londynek – This is the UK’S largest online community specifically dedicated to Poles. It is particularly useful if you need to find a job and accommodation.   
  • HMRC– Here you will find information about tax and National Insurance.
  • Migrants’ Rights Network – This organisation campaigns for migrants to receive fair treatment in British society.  
  • East European Advice Centre – This charity provides advice and support to peoplefrom Eastern Europe and it helps them settle in the UK.