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Guide to the Payslip for Employers



One of the fundamental elements of UK employment rights in relation to pay is that workers are entitled to receive a written itemised statement of pay, otherwise known as a payslip.

Payslips ensure that workers understand how much they are being paid, what deductions have been taken and what period the pay covers.
Workers need payslips to ensure transparency and accuracy in their earnings and deductions, and they also serve as official records for tax purposes, loan applications and employment verification.

If an employer fails to provide a payslip or the payslip contains inaccurate information, the worker can complain to an Employment Tribunal.

In this guide, we set out the rules employers must follow to comply with the law on payslips, including who is entitled to receive a payslip, what a payslip should include and when and how they should be issued.


Section A: Legal Requirements for Payslips in the UK


The Employment Rights Act 1996 imposes certain obligations on employers in relation to payslips, which are designed to protect employees’ rights and ensure transparency in wage payments.


1. Employment Rights Act 1996 Requirements


Under Section 8 (1) of the Employment Rights Act 1996, workers have the right to receive a written itemised pay statement, or ‘payslip’, either on or before their payday.

The payslip must include specific details, ensuring that workers are fully aware of their earnings and any deductions.

The mandatory information that must be provided on a payslip includes:


a. Gross Pay: Total earnings before any deductions.

b. Net Pay: Earnings after all deductions have been applied.

c. Deductions: Itemised list of all deductions, both variable and fixed, such as taxes, National Insurance, pension contributions, and any other relevant deductions.

d. Pay Period: The period for which the pay covers, e.g., weekly, monthly.

e. Method of Payment: How the wages will be paid, e.g., bank transfer, cheque.


2. Who Needs to Receive a Payslip


Based on the Employment Rights Act 1996 (ERA 1996), most workers in the UK are entitled to receive payslips.

This includes various categories of workers:


a. Employees: The most common category of worker, referring to individuals on a formal employment contract with an employer. They typically receive regular wages or a salary.

b. Workers: This broader category extends beyond traditional employees and might encompass individuals with less formal arrangements, such as agency workers, zero-hour contract workers and casual workers.

However, there are important exclusions to this entitlement:

a. Self-Employed Individuals: People who are genuinely self-employed and work for multiple clients or businesses are not entitled to payslips under the ERA 1996. They are responsible for managing their own finances and taxes.

b. Police Service: Police officers have separate regulations regarding their pay and are not covered by the ERA 1996 for payslips.

c. Merchant Seamen: Seafarers employed on merchant vessels typically have different pay structures and are not covered by the standard payslip requirement.

d. Master or Crew Member Working in Share Fishing: Individuals working on fishing vessels where their pay is based on a share of the profits or gross earnings are not entitled to statutory payslips.

e. Volunteers: People who volunteer their time and do not receive wages are not entitled to payslips.


While the term “employee” is often used, the key takeaway is that all workers, with some specific exceptions, are entitled to receive payslips under the Employment Rights Act 1996. As such, it is important that employers correctly classify their workers to determine their entitlement to payslips and ensure compliance with the law.


3. When to Issue Payslips


Payslips must be provided to workers on or before each payday. The frequency will depend on the pay schedule established by the employer, which typically falls into the following categories:


a. Weekly Payslips: For employees paid on a weekly basis, payslips must be issued every week.

b. Bi-Weekly Payslips: For those on a bi-weekly (fortnightly) pay schedule, payslips must be provided every two weeks.

c. Monthly Payslips: For employees paid monthly, payslips should be issued once a month, on or before payday.

d. Other Pay Schedules: If an employer uses a different pay schedule, such as semi-monthly, payslips must be issued accordingly, ensuring they align with the pay periods.


4. Consequences of Pay-Related Disputes


Failure to provide compliant payslips or making unlawful deductions from workers’ pay can lead to significant implications and consequences for employers.

One of the most immediate and severe consequences of non-compliance with payslip regulations is the potential for legal action, including tribunal claims and fines. Making unlawful deductions from wages can also lead to similar legal actions, with tribunals often ruling in favour of the employee.

Dealing with pay disputes can disrupt normal business operations. Time and resources that should be focused on business activities may instead be diverted to address disputes, handle legal matters, and manage the fallout from decreased employee morale. This can lead to inefficiencies and reduced business performance.

Legal disputes can result in significant costs related to legal fees, settlements, and fines. Beyond the immediate financial burden, there can be long-term effects such as increased insurance premiums for liability coverage and potential loss of business if clients and customers become aware of the issues.

Non-compliance with payroll regulations and the resulting pay disputes can also severely damage an employer’s reputation, potentially making it more difficult to retain and attract workers and impacting customer trust.

Unresolved pay disputes can also lead to a decline in employee morale and productivity. Employees who feel mistreated or undervalued are less likely to be engaged and motivated. This can result in higher absenteeism, lower productivity, and increased turnover rates. High turnover can lead to further costs associated with recruiting and training new employees.

Employers who have a history of pay disputes may also attract increased scrutiny from regulatory bodies such as HMRC and the Information Commissioner’s Office. This can result in more frequent audits and inspections, further adding to the administrative burden and potential for discovering additional compliance issues.


Section B: Key Components of a Payslip


Employers must ensure payslips provide specific information, as mandated under the Employment Rights Act.


1. Mandatory Payslip Information


Certain elements must be included on every payslip to comply with UK law. These mandatory components ensure employees have a clear understanding of their earnings and any deductions made from their pay.

Employee’s earnings before and after deductions must be clearly outlined. Gross pay, which is the total amount earned by the employee before any deductions are made, should be detailed. This includes basic salary, overtime, bonuses, and other earnings. Net pay, the amount the employee takes home after all deductions have been applied, is the actual amount paid to the employee.

Payslips must also specify the amounts of any variable deductions. This includes tax deductions such as Income Tax and National Insurance contributions, which can vary based on the employee’s earnings and tax code. Pension contributions made by the employee to their pension scheme must also be listed, along with other deductions that may include student loan repayments, union fees, or other voluntary deductions.

Additionally, the total amount of fixed deductions must be indicated. Fixed deductions are regular, unchanging amounts deducted from an employee’s pay, such as court-ordered payments or fixed-rate loans.

The net wages payable, which is the final amount paid to the employee after all deductions have been made, must be clearly shown on the payslip.

Finally, the method of payment should be specified, indicating how the net wages will be paid to the employee, whether by bank transfer, cheque, or cash.


2. Optional but Useful Information


Including additional information on a payslip can enhance its clarity and usefulness for employees. While not legally required, these details can help employees better understand their pay and provide important context.

Including the employee’s name and address can help in identifying the payslip and ensuring it reaches the correct individual. This personal detail adds a layer of specificity, ensuring that the document is attributed to the right person.

Providing the employer’s name and address helps to identify the source of the payslip and can be useful for record-keeping and official purposes. This information adds a level of formality and clarity, making it easier to track and verify the origin of the payslip.

Clearly stating the pay period, such as the specific dates for which the payment is made, helps employees understand the timeframe their pay covers. This is especially important for those who may have variable pay periods or receive irregular payments, ensuring they can accurately correlate the payment with their work period.


Section C: Common Mistakes Employers Make with Payslips


Errors in payslips can lead to confusion, disputes, and even legal issues. The following are common issues that can be avoided by implementing compliant payroll practices:


1. Inaccurate Deductions


One of the most common mistakes employers make is inaccurately calculating deductions. This can occur for several reasons:


a Incorrect Tax Codes: Using the wrong tax code can result in employees being overtaxed or undertaxed. Regularly updating tax codes and cross-checking them against HMRC records can prevent this.

b. Miscalculated Pension Contributions: Errors in calculating pension contributions can lead to incorrect deductions. Ensure that contributions align with the employee’s pension plan and current legislation.

c. Overlooking Variable Deductions: Items such as overtime, bonuses, and other variable earnings need accurate deductions applied. Using reliable payroll software can help manage these variables effectively.

d. Failure to Apply Court Orders or Student Loans Correctly: Not adhering to court-ordered payments or correctly calculating student loan repayments can lead to compliance issues. Regular audits and updates on such deductions are crucial.


To prevent these errors, use automated payroll systems to minimise human error. Regularly auditing your payroll process can also help identify and rectify discrepancies before they become significant issues. Additionally, staying updated on tax codes and deduction regulations ensures that all calculations are accurate and compliant with current laws.


2. Incomplete Information


Payslips must contain all required details as mandated by the Employment Rights Act 1996. Missing information can also lead to misunderstandings and legal challenges.


a. Mandatory Details Missing: Failing to include essential information such as gross pay, net pay, and itemised deductions can confuse employees and result in non-compliance.

b. Lack of Pay Period Details: Employees need to know the exact period their pay covers. Omitting this can lead to questions and disputes.

c. Incorrect or Missing Payment Methods: Clearly stating the method of payment is crucial for transparency.


To avoid these issues, double-check each payslip to ensure that all mandatory details are included. Using a standardised payslip template can help maintain consistency across all payslips. Additionally, regularly reviewing payroll policies and procedures ensures that your practices remain up-to-date and compliant with current regulations.


3. Timing Issues


Issuing payslips on time is not only a legal requirement but also a crucial aspect of maintaining employee trust and satisfaction.


a. Late Issuance: Delayed payslips can cause frustration and mistrust among employees. It can also lead to legal penalties for non-compliance.

b. Inconsistent Issuance: Inconsistency in the timing of payslip distribution can confuse employees, particularly those with variable pay periods.


These issues can be avoided by setting clear payroll schedules and adhering to them strictly. Using automated systems to schedule payslip generation and distribution can also further enhance accuracy and efficiency. Also, clearly communicating payroll schedules to all employees ensures that everyone is informed and expectations are managed effectively.


Section D: Digital vs. Paper Payslips


While the Employment Rights Act 1996 mandates that all workers receive an itemised pay statement, it does not dictate the format. As such, employers have the option of issuing payslips in either digital or paper format.

Each method has its own set of advantages and disadvantages, impacting factors such as environmental sustainability, ease of access, security, and more.


1. Pros and Cons of Digital Payslips


Digital payroll systems offer advantages in relation to accuracy and efficiency in administration.

Digital payroll software allows employers to automate payslip generation and distribution, reducing the risk of human error and ensuring that payslips are consistently processed in line with the agreed schedule.

Record keeping also becomes easier as digital payroll systems retain copies of payslips.

Digital payslips are also more environmentally friendly than paper versions, supporting more sustainable payroll management practices.

Digital payslips can, however, come with disadvantages that employers need to consider. One significant issue is that not all employees may have easy access to digital devices or the internet, potentially excluding some individuals from receiving their payslips promptly, which can create disparities and inconvenience for those without reliable digital access.

Another concern is the risk of technical issues. Reliance on digital systems means that technical failures or cyber-attacks could disrupt the delivery and access of payslips. Such disruptions can cause delays and confusion, undermining the reliability of the payroll process.

Additionally, the implementation of secure digital systems may involve initial costs and ongoing maintenance expenses. Setting up these systems requires investment in technology and cybersecurity measures, which can be a financial burden, especially for smaller businesses.


2. Pros and Cons of Paper Payslips


One of the main advantages of paper payslips is their tangibility. Having a physical copy can be reassuring for some employees, as it provides a concrete record of their earnings and deductions. This tangible document can be easily filed and referenced without the need for digital access.

Another benefit is the immediate receipt of the payslip. Employees receive a physical document directly without relying on internet access or digital devices. This can be particularly advantageous in environments where digital access is limited or unreliable.

Furthermore, many employees are familiar with and accustomed to receiving paper payslips. This traditional method can be preferred by those who are not comfortable with digital alternatives, making it a more user-friendly option for some members of the workforce.

Paper payslips do, however, come with several cons, particularly the potential for loss or damage. Paper payslips can be easily lost, damaged, or destroyed, making it difficult for employees to maintain accurate records over time. This physical vulnerability means that important financial information may not be reliably preserved.

Storage issues are another drawback. Storing large volumes of paper payslips can become cumbersome and require significant physical space. Employers may find it challenging to manage and archive these documents efficiently, leading to potential clutter and disorganisation.

Environmental considerations may also be a concern. Producing paper payslips has an environmental impact, as paper, ink, and other resources are consumed. Discarded paper payslips can also contribute to physical waste, impacting landfill and recycling processes.


Section E: Employer Best Practices


Employers should follow best practices to ensure compliance with their obligations in relation to payslips:


1. Consistency and Regularity


Consistency and regularity in issuing payslips are fundamental to maintaining trust and transparency with employees. Establishing a routine is crucial; setting a clear schedule for when payslips will be issued, whether weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly, and adhering to it without fail is essential. Employees rely on timely payslips to manage their finances, so any delays can cause unnecessary stress and dissatisfaction.

Communicating the schedule to all employees is equally important. Ensuring that everyone is aware of the payslip issuance schedule helps manage expectations and reduces uncertainty. Clear communication is key to avoiding confusion and ensuring that employees know when to expect their payslips.

Automating the process can further enhance consistency and regularity. Utilising payroll software to automate the generation and distribution of payslips minimises the risk of human error and ensures that payslips are issued on time. Automation provides a reliable and efficient means of maintaining a consistent payroll process.


2. Clear Format


Using a clear and understandable format for payslips is crucial for ensuring that employees can easily interpret their earnings and deductions. Design payslips with a simple, uncluttered layout, avoiding excessive jargon and using plain language to describe each section. This simplicity helps in making the information more accessible and reduces confusion.

Clearly, itemising all earnings and deductions is essential. Each payslip should show gross pay, individual deductions (such as taxes, National Insurance, and pension contributions), and net pay. This level of transparency helps employees understand how their pay is calculated, providing a comprehensive view of their earnings.

Highlighting key information using bold or larger fonts can make critical details, such as net pay, pay period dates, and total deductions, stand out. This approach ensures that employees can quickly find the most important details on their payslips, enhancing readability and usability.

Providing explanatory notes for less common deductions or earnings can also be beneficial. Brief explanations help prevent confusion and reduce the number of queries from employees, ensuring they have a clear understanding of all components of their pay.


3. Compliance with Data Protection Laws


Ensuring compliance with data protection laws is essential to protect sensitive employee information and avoid legal repercussions. Whether issuing digital or paper payslips, it is crucial to deliver them securely. For digital payslips, use encrypted emails or secure online portals, while for paper payslips, use sealed envelopes to prevent unauthorised access.

Developing and enforcing strict data protection policies is imperative. Employees’ personal and financial information must be handled in accordance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and other relevant data protection laws. This ensures that all data is processed legally and ethically.

Limiting access to payslip information to authorised personnel only is another critical measure. Ensure that payroll staff are trained in data protection principles and understand the importance of confidentiality. This reduces the risk of data breaches and maintains the integrity of sensitive information.

Establish clear guidelines for the retention and disposal of payslip records. Keep records only for as long as necessary to meet legal requirements and securely dispose of them when they are no longer needed. This helps manage data responsibly and reduces the risk of unauthorised access to outdated records.

Finally, explicit consent must be obtained from employees for the collection and processing of their personal data. Inform employees about how their data will be used, stored, and protected. This transparency builds trust and ensures that employees are aware of their rights regarding their personal information.


Section F: How to Handle Payslip Queries and Disputes


Workers depend on their pay to meet their financial commitments. As such, issues with pay can become a source of significant stress and must be dealt with quickly and effectively by the employer.

If you are facing a query or complaint about payroll, follow these steps to ensure you address the matter promptly and in compliance with your obligations:


1. Establish a Clear Process


Having a well-defined process for handling payslip queries and disputes ensures that issues are addressed systematically and consistently.

Develop and document a clear procedure for employees to follow when they have a payslip query or dispute, which should include how to submit a query, who to contact, and expected response times.

Assign a specific individual or department responsible for handling payslip queries so that all queries are directed to the appropriate personnel who are knowledgeable and capable of resolving the issues.

It helps to provide multiple channels for employees to submit their queries, such as email, phone, or an online portal, and ensure these channels are easy to access and use.

Also, set and communicate clear timelines for acknowledging and resolving queries. Aim to acknowledge receipt of a query within 24 hours and provide a resolution within a specified period (e.g., five business days).


2. Communication Tips


Clear, empathetic, and professional communication can help resolve issues quickly and maintain employee trust. When an employee raises a query, listen carefully to their concern without interrupting. Show empathy and understanding to reassure them that their issue is being taken seriously.

When responding, provide clear and detailed explanations, avoiding jargon so the employee understands the information provided.

If you need time to address the query, keep the employee informed about the progress and provide regular updates to assure them that it is being actively addressed.

It is also good practice to follow up verbal communications with written summaries to ensure clarity and create a documented record of the discussion and agreed actions.


3. Resolution Steps


Resolving payslip disputes often requires a systematic approach to identify the root cause and implement a solution.

First, you will need to collect all relevant information from the employee regarding their query or dispute, such as the specific payslip in question, the nature of the issue, and any supporting documents.

Carefully review the payslip and associated payroll records to identify any discrepancies or errors. Cross-check calculations, deductions, and any other relevant details.

If necessary, consult with the payroll team or external payroll provider to clarify any uncertainties or complex issues.

You should then be able to identify the cause of the issue, whether it is a data entry error, a miscalculation, or a misunderstanding of the payslip components.

If there has been an issue with pay, you will need to take prompt action, which may involve issuing a corrected payslip or making adjustments in the next payroll cycle.

Whether there has been an issue or if it is a matter of the employee misunderstanding their pay, you will need to inform the employee of the resolution in a clear and timely manner. Provide a detailed explanation of what has happened and any corrective steps that have been taken.

You should also take steps to prevent any such issue from happening again. For example, you may need to provide additional training for payroll staff, make improvements in payroll software, or implement enhanced procedures for data entry and verification.


Section G: Summary


While payslips may generally be seen as nothing more than a repetitive administrative task for employers, they do, in fact, play an important role in employee relations and payroll management. They act as a formal record of an employee’s earnings, deductions, and net pay and ensure transparency and trust between employers and employees.

Failure to provide payslips on time or to include the required information can result in tribunal claims and damage to the employer-employee relationship.

Issues with pay are, therefore best avoided since they demand time and resources to resolve, and can impact workforce relations and morale if an employer is seen as failing to meet their obligations to pay workers the correct amount and in the correct way.


Section H: Need Assistance?


If you need expert assistance in managing your payroll processes and ensuring compliance with all legal requirements, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. DavidsonMorris offer specialist advice and support to help employers meet their legal obligations in relation to payroll, including ensuring payslips are legally compliant.


Section I: Payslip FAQs


What information must be included on a payslip?
A payslip must include the employee’s gross pay, net pay, and a detailed breakdown of any deductions (both variable and fixed). It should also indicate the pay period and method of payment.


Are all employees entitled to receive a payslip?
Yes, all employees are entitled to receive a payslip on or before payday. This includes full-time, part-time, and casual workers. However, freelancers, contractors, and volunteers are not entitled to payslips.


How often should payslips be issued?
Payslips should be issued on or before each payday. The frequency depends on the employer’s pay schedule, which could be weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, or another arrangement.


Can payslips be issued electronically?
Yes, payslips can be issued electronically. Digital payslips offer benefits such as reduced environmental impact, ease of access, and enhanced security. However, employers must ensure all employees have access to the necessary technology.


What should I do if an employee disputes their payslip?
If an employee disputes their payslip, follow a clear process to address the issue. This includes gathering all relevant information, reviewing the payslip details, consulting with the payroll team, identifying the cause of the issue, and communicating the resolution to the employee promptly.


How can I ensure the accuracy of deductions on payslips?
To ensure the accuracy of deductions, regularly update tax codes, verify pension contributions, and use reliable payroll software. Conduct regular audits and provide training for payroll staff to minimise errors.


What are the data protection requirements for payslips?
Employers must comply with data protection laws such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). This involves securing digital payslips with encryption, limiting access to payroll data to authorised personnel, and ensuring physical payslips are delivered in sealed envelopes.


What should I include on a payslip to make it more understandable for employees?
To make payslips more understandable, use a simple layout with itemised breakdowns of earnings and deductions. Highlight key information such as net pay and pay period dates, and provide explanatory notes for any complex deductions or earnings.


What steps can I take to prevent common payslip errors?
Prevent common payslip errors by automating payroll processes, conducting regular audits, using standardised templates, and staying updated on payroll regulations. Ensure your payroll team is well-trained and that there is a clear process for addressing any discrepancies.


Section J: Glossary


Gross Pay: The total amount earned by an employee before any deductions are made. This includes basic salary, overtime, bonuses, and any other earnings.

Net Pay: The amount an employee takes home after all deductions have been applied. This is also known as take-home pay.

Deductions: Amounts subtracted from an employee’s gross pay. These can include taxes, National Insurance contributions, pension contributions, student loan repayments, and other voluntary or mandatory deductions.

Fixed Deductions: Regular, unchanging amounts deducted from an employee’s pay. Examples include court-ordered payments or fixed-rate loans.

Variable Deductions: Deductions that can vary each pay period based on earnings or other factors. Examples include taxes, pension contributions, and overtime adjustments.

PAYE (Pay As You Earn): A system where employers deduct Income Tax and National Insurance contributions from employees’ wages before paying them.

National Insurance (NI): Contributions made by employees and employers in the UK to qualify for certain benefits, including the State Pension and other welfare benefits.

Pension Contributions: Amounts deducted from an employee’s salary to be invested in a pension scheme, helping them save for retirement.

Tax Code: A code used by an employer to determine how much Income Tax should be deducted from an employee’s pay. It is issued by HMRC.

HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs): The UK government department responsible for the collection of taxes, the payment of some forms of state support, and the administration of other regulatory regimes.

GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation): A regulation in EU law on data protection and privacy for individuals within the European Union and the European Economic Area. It also addresses the transfer of personal data outside the EU and EEA areas.

Payslip: A document provided by an employer to an employee detailing the employee’s earnings, deductions, and net pay for a specific pay period.

Employment Rights Act 1996: A key piece of legislation in the UK that outlines the rights and responsibilities of employees and employers, including the requirement for employers to provide payslips.

Payroll Software: Software used by employers to manage their payroll processes, including calculating wages, deductions, and issuing payslips. Examples include BrightPay and Sage Payroll.

PAYE Tools: A free software package provided by HMRC to help small employers with payroll management, including payslip generation and tax calculations.

ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service): An independent public body that provides free and impartial information and advice to employers and employees on all aspects of workplace relations and employment law.

Payslip Template: A pre-designed format or document that can be used to generate payslips, ensuring consistency and compliance with legal requirements.


Section K: Additional Resources


HMRC – Payroll: Overview


Employment Rights Act 1996


ACAS – Pay and Wages


The Pensions Regulator


Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) – Data Protection


GOV.UK – Data Protection and Your Business


Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD)
Payroll and Benefits benefits




Founder and Managing Director Anne Morris is a fully qualified solicitor and trusted adviser to large corporates through to SMEs, providing strategic immigration and global mobility advice to support employers with UK operations to meet their workforce needs through corporate immigration.

She is a recognised by Legal 500and Chambers as a legal expert and delivers Board-level advice on business migration and compliance risk management as well as overseeing the firm’s development of new client propositions and delivery of cost and time efficient processing of applications.

Anne is an active public speaker, immigration commentator, and immigration policy contributor and regularly hosts training sessions for employers and HR professionals

About DavidsonMorris

As employer solutions lawyers, DavidsonMorris offers a complete and cost-effective capability to meet employers’ needs across UK immigration and employment law, HR and global mobility.

Led by Anne Morris, one of the UK’s preeminent immigration lawyers, and with rankings in The Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners, we’re a multi-disciplinary team helping organisations to meet their people objectives, while reducing legal risk and nurturing workforce relations.

Legal Disclaimer

The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law, and should not be treated as such. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct at the time of writing, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.

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