Understanding your payslip

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A payslip shows how much your employer has paid you, as well as explaining what you earned and what was taken off.

You should get your payslip on or before your payday, whether that’s weekly, bi-weekly or monthly. (There are a few jobs where you won’t get payslips, like if you're freelance or work for the police.)

It’s important to understand your payslip, so you can make sure you’re being paid and taxed correctly.
But payslips often contain an overwhelming amount of information! So to make things easier for you, here’s a breakdown of what you might see.

Illustration of a payslip

Mandatory information

Payslips can look a bit different from employer to employer, but they must always show the following:

Gross pay: this is your earnings before deductions. A ‘deduction’ is money taken off, like tax.

Net pay: this is your earnings after deductions. This tends to be the most interesting number, since it’s what will actually be paid into your bank account.

Variable deductions: these are deductions that may change each time you’re paid, such as income tax.
(Note that your employer must also explain any fixed deductions – like repayments for a rail season ticket – but they can do this in a separate document.)

Personal information

Your payroll number: some companies use payroll numbers to help them identify employees on their payroll.

Your tax code: This code normally starts with a number and ends with a letter. It tells your employer how much tax you should pay – so if it’s wrong, you may pay too much. If you think this has happened, contact HMRC to get your code changed and to ask for a tax refund.

Your National Insurance (NI) number: This is used to help HMRC track your income so they can tax you the correct amount. It never changes, so it should be exactly the same on all your payslips.


Your payslip must show the total amount you’ve earned. Sometimes, your employer breaks this down into categories, such as:

Basic pay: this is how much you’ve earned before any ‘extras’ (like commission).

Commission and bonuses: this may be what you’ve earned on top of your usual salary, usually for doing well at your job.

Overtime: some employers may pay you extra for working overtime, or a higher rate for working on weekends for example.

Expenses reimbursement: if you bought something you need for your job – such as petrol or stationery – some employers will pay you back. They may include this in your payslip or do it separately.

Sick pay: if you’re too ill to work, you may be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay and/or occupational sick pay. This would replace your usual pay while you’re off ill.

Maternity, paternity and adoption pay: these may replace your usual pay if you’re off work because you have a new child.

Workplace benefits: these might include things like healthcare insurance or a company car.


A deduction is money taken off your earnings before you’re paid. Remember that there are two types of deductions: variable (which can change from payslip to payslip) and fixed (which won’t change in amount).

Income tax: this may also appear as ‘PAYE tax’ on your payslip. How much income tax you should pay depends on your tax code.

National Insurance contributions: this is another kind of tax, which will help you access certain benefits in the future, such as a state pension and maternity allowance.

Pension contributions: some employees give up part of their salary to be paid into a workplace pension. Pension contributions from your employer may also be shown.

Student loan payments: if you’re repaying a student loan, your employer will take the money directly out of your salary to give to the Student Loans Company.

Court orders and child maintenance: your employer may be asked to take money directly from your pay packet for things like unpaid fines, debt repayments and child maintenance.

Repayments for workplace benefits: some employers offer loans for things like rail season tickets. They’ll usually take the repayments directly from your earnings.

Payroll Giving: this is a scheme that allows employees to donate to charity directly from their pay.

Other information

Pay date: this is the date the money should be paid into your bank account.

Pay method: this is how you’ll be paid, for example by BACS (i.e. directly into your bank account).

Tax period: this is the period of time you’ve been taxed for. It’s usually shown as the month number, e.g. ‘02’ to mean February.

Summary of the year to date: Your payslip may show your total earnings, deductions and pay for the current financial year (which runs from 6 April to 5 April). This can be particularly helpful for checking if you’ve been taxed correctly.

Payslip acronyms

Payslips are often full of space-saving acronyms. It can be hard to guess what they stand for, so we’ve put together a glossary for some of the most common ones:

ET: Earnings Threshold. The amount you can earn before you have to pay income tax.

LEL: Lower Earnings Limit. The amount you can earn before you have to pay National Insurance contributions.

NIC: National Insurance Contributions. A type of tax you pay to access certain benefits in the future, such as a statutory pension.

PAYE: Pay As You Earn. A scheme that allows your employer to take income tax directly from your pay packet.

PP: Personal Pension. Contributions made to your pension.

SEE: Small Earnings Exception. A National Insurance exemption for people earning below a certain amount.

SSP: Statutory Sick Pay. Payments made to an employee who’s been off ill for four days or more in a row.

YTD: Year to Date. In other words, the tax year up until now.

TY: Tax Year. This runs for 12 months from 6 April to 5 April.

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This post was updated on 10th October 2019