Understanding Payslip Abbreviations UK: A Simple Guide

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In this article, we break down the common terms found on UK payslips in a simple and straightforward way.

Common terms in a UK payslip

When managing UK payroll, being familiar with payslip abbreviations and key terms is crucial. These terms provide insight into earnings and tax payments, national insurance contributions, and other financial transactions that affect how much income tax your employees pay.

Let's break down these terms in a way that helps both employers and employees navigate the complexities of a UK payslip.

Earnings and income details:

  • Gross pay: The total earnings of an employee before any deductions. This includes wages, overtime, and bonuses.

  • Taxable pay: The part of the gross pay on which income tax is calculated. It's crucial for determining how much tax the employee owes for the tax year.


  • Income tax: The sum deducted from the taxable pay towards the government department responsible for tax collection. Understanding this helps in assessing how much tax an employee pays.

  • Variable deductions: These are deductions that may change each pay period, like union dues or repayments towards a student loan. They're important for understanding fluctuations in net pay.

  • Fixed deductions: Consistent deductions from each pay period, such as for health insurance or a personal pension scheme.

  • National insurance contributions: These are crucial deductions that contribute towards state benefits, including state pension and other statutory payments like statutory maternity pay (SMP), statutory paternity pay (SPP), statutory sick pay (SSP), and statutory adoption pay (SAP).

Net pay:

  • Net pay: The amount an employee takes home after all the deductions, including tax and national insurance, are made from the gross pay. It's the final figure paid monthly into the employee's bank account.

Employer and payment information:

  • Employer reference number (PAYE): A unique number identifying the employer in the Pay As You Earn system, crucial for automated clearing services like BACS.

  • Bankers automated clearing services (BACS): A system used for financial transactions, typically transferring the net pay into the employee's bank account.

Time-related information:

  • Leave details: These include periods like maternity or paternity leave, which are covered under statutory maternity (SMP), statutory paternity (SPP), and statutory adoption (SAP) pays.

  • Year-to-date (YTD): The cumulative amount for earnings, tax payments, and deductions from the start of the financial year to the current payslip, reflecting all the deductions made over this period.

Each term on a payslip, from the gross pay to the emergency tax codes, plays a role in ensuring both the employer and employee are aware of the earnings threshold, personal allowance, and any child tax credits or state benefits applicable.

These terms also cover pension contributions, with both employer contributions and employee's salary deductions towards a pension scheme.

Tax codes and their significance in UK payroll

Tax codes are pivotal in determining the tax deduction amounts from an employee's salary.

Let's unpack the significance of these codes, touching upon elements like personal pension payments, statutory payments, and allowances.

Emergency tax code:

Often seen on a new employee's payslip, this code is used when an employer doesn't have all the details they need. It ensures the employee pays tax while their correct code is determined. This code might be used when an employee doesn't provide their national insurance number or a P45 form.

Emergency tax codes may result in different tax deductions than usual until the employee's information is updated.

Basic personal allowance:

This is the standard amount of income an individual can earn before they start paying income tax. It is reflected in most tax codes with a number and a letter, like '1250L'. Understanding this helps in calculating the tax deduction correctly.


These abbreviations stand for statutory maternity pay, statutory sick pay, statutory adoption pay, and statutory paternity pay, respectively. They are special considerations in tax codes for employees who are receiving these types of compensation payments.

Partner's personal allowance:

In cases where a spouse or civil partner transfers part of their personal allowance to their partner, this will affect the tax code of the receiving partner. It's essential for accurate tax calculations and ensuring compliance with the Employment Rights Act.

Lower earnings limit:

This is the minimum level of earnings that an employee needs to achieve to qualify for certain benefits like the state pension or statutory pay. It's a crucial figure that can be influenced by the tax code.

Implications for employers and employees:

  • Employer pays and separate statement: Employers must use the correct tax code to calculate the amount of tax to deduct from their employee's salary. This should be clearly stated on the payslip, along with any other deductions like national insurance contributions or pension payments.

  • Child benefit and weekly allowance: Certain tax codes might be adjusted if an employee receives child benefit and earns above a specific income threshold. This can affect the amount of tax they pay each pay period.

  • Pension provider and payment scheme: For employees contributing to a personal pension scheme, the tax code might be adjusted to reflect the tax relief they receive on these payments.

  • Cash payment and compensation payment: In cases where employees receive cash payments or compensation payments, these must be factored into the tax code to ensure the correct amount of tax is paid.

Tax codes play a vital role in the payroll process, influencing how much tax and national insurance is deducted from an employee's salary. Both employers and employees must understand these codes to ensure they comply with UK payroll regulations and the Employment Rights Act.

Correct interpretation of tax codes ensures accurate financial transactions and a smooth payroll experience for everyone involved.

Legal requirements for payslip information

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The Employment Rights Act 1996, particularly with its amendments, sets specific requirements for what must be included in every UK payslip. Understanding these legal requirements is crucial for employers to ensure compliance and for employees to understand their payslips accurately.

Mandatory elements on a UK payslip

As per the Employment Rights Act 1996 and its subsequent amendments, the following elements are legally required on a UK payslip:

  • Employee's full name and employee number (if applicable): Identification of the employee receiving the payslip.

  • Date of payment: The specific date on which the employee is paid.

  • Gross salary or wage: The total amount of earnings before any deductions.

  • Deductions: Detailed list of deductions such as tax, national insurance, pension contributions, student loan repayments, etc.

  • Net pay: The final amount the employee receives after all deductions.

  • Hours worked (if applicable): This is required especially for employees whose pay varies depending on the time worked.

  • Tax code: Used to determine the amount of tax to be deducted.

  • Any additional bonuses or allowances: These should be itemized separately.

Additional information and method of delivery

  • Contractual deduction amounts: As agreed by the employee in writing, such as trade union subscriptions, gym memberships, or medical insurance.

  • Method of payment: For instance, BACS transfer.

  • Pay date: When the employee is expected to receive their pay.

  • National insurance number and category: Useful but not essential.

  • Pay rate and gross year to date figures: Provides a cumulative view of the employee’s earnings.

  • Name of the employer and tax reference/period number: To identify the employer and tax period.

  • Bank details: Often omitted for security reasons.

  • Date of birth: Generally not included to maintain privacy.

Format and distribution of payslips

Payslips must be provided on or before payday and can be distributed in several ways:

  • As a printed paper copy, ideally sealed for privacy.

  • Via email, ensuring that each employee has a unique and private email address.

  • Through a secure portal login that is password protected, with each employee having their own unique login.

Changes in legislation

The amendments to the Employment Rights Act 1996 introduced in April 2019 require payslips for all workers (not just those with a contract of employment) and stipulate that itemized pay statements must include additional information for workers paid by reference to time.

This change aims to improve pay transparency and ensure that workers can reconcile the time worked with their payment.

Compliance and consequences

Failure to comply with these requirements can lead to grievances raised by employees and, in severe cases, legal action against the employer. It’s vital for employers to stay informed about these legal obligations to avoid any potential issues.

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Understanding the various elements of a UK payslip is essential for employers and employees alike. By familiarizing themselves with common terms, tax codes, and the legal requirements outlined by the Employment Rights Act 1996, employers can ensure accurate and compliant payroll processing.

This knowledge not only helps in avoiding potential legal complications but also fosters a transparent and trustworthy work environment. For employees, grasping these concepts means better insight into their earnings, deductions, and overall financial health.

As payroll remains a vital part of the employment relationship, staying informed and vigilant about these aspects is beneficial for all parties involved.

Topic: Pay
Rinaily Bonifacio

Written by:

Rinaily Bonifacio

Rinaily is a renowned expert in the field of human resources with years of industry experience. With a passion for writing high-quality HR content, Rinaily brings a unique perspective to the challenges and opportunities of the modern workplace. As an experienced HR professional and content writer, She has contributed to leading publications in the field of HR.


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