Understanding your payslip

It’s important to understand your payslip so you can be sure you’re being paid the right amount. You can also check that your tax code is correct and you’re not paying more income tax than you need. Whether you’ve been working for years and never got to grips with your payslip, or you’ve just received your first wages, our guide should help.

It’s important to understand your payslip so you can be sure you’re being paid the right amount. You can also check that your tax code is correct and you’re not paying more income tax than you need. Whether you’ve been working for years and never got to grips with your payslip, or you’ve just received your first wages, our guide should help.

What information is on my payslip?

Every payslip must contain set pieces of information to give you the basic figures you need. Your name should be included, but your home address may not be – although many employers will include it.

Your employer must make sure your payslip shows:

  • Gross pay – your full pay before any income tax or National Insurance has been taken off.
  • Net pay – the total amount of money you get to take home after all deductions.
  • Deductions – these can come in two forms:
    • Variable deductions – these can vary from payday to payday, and include tax and National Insurance.
    • Fixed deductions – these don’t change and could be for things like union membership, or your company sports or social club.

With variable deductions, the payslip must give the amount and specify what each is for. With fixed deductions, your employer isn’t required to set out details, provided they give you a separate statement showing these details at least once a year and before your first payslip.

  • The amount and way any part-payments are made. For example, separate amounts for a cash payment and the remaining balance paid into a bank account.
  • The number of hours you worked, if your pay varies depending on time worked.

Your employer might also include additional information on your payslip that they’re not required to, such as your:

  • tax code
  • National Insurance number
  • pay rate (annual or hourly)
  • additional payments listed out separately, such as overtime, tips or bonuses (although these must be included in your gross pay figure).

A quick guide to what’s in your payslip

See the numbered key for an explanation of entries

Payslip items explained

Your employer might include more than what’s required on your payslip so here’s a guide to some of the things you could see.






These are commonly used abbreviations on payslips and are used as shorthand for employEE and employER to show who’s paid what for that month in payments and cumulative totals.


Your personal details

Your name and sometimes your address will be included.


Your payroll number

This is the number that your company uses to identify you on the payroll.


Your tax code

Your tax code is used by your employer or pension provider to work out how much income tax to take from your pay or pension. It will normally start with a number and end with a letter.


Your National Insurance number

You have a National Insurance (NI) number to make sure your National Insurance contributions and tax are recorded against your name only. It never changes through your working life.


The tax period

Depending on whether you’re paid monthly or weekly, it will show the tax week or month for the tax year starting from 6 April. In our example, April is month 1 and January would be month 10.


How your wages are paid

Your payslip can indicate how you’ve been paid – in cash, into your nominated bank account or a mix of the two.


Employee pension contribution

This is the contribution you make into your own pension and is deducted from your basic pay before tax is paid. This might be shown as EEs Pension or similar.


National Insurance

Your National Insurance contribution for that pay period will be shown as a deduction. Your payslip may say something like EE NI or EE NIC– employee National Insurance Contribution.


Net pay

This is your take-home pay, after all deductions have been made.


Period ER Pension

The amount your employer has paid into your pension for this pay period. This might be shown as ERs pension or similar.



Summary of running totals for the current tax year – often shown as year to date or YTD.

Not always included on every payslip, this shows the total of how much you and your employer have paid so far this year and may include things like salary, tax, National Insurance and pension.


Deductions – tax, National Insurance, student loan (if applicable) and pension

Any variable deductions must be listed, such as income tax and National Insurance, student loan (if applicable) and pension contributions.


Payments, wages bonuses, commission and expenses

This will show how much you’ve earned in wages before any deductions are made. It should include any extra payments above your basic pay, such as bonuses, overtime or commission.

It may also show your hourly rate and the numbers of hours worked to show how your pay is calculated.

Some employers pay any expenses owing via the payroll and include it here. They may be listed separately or totalled together.

Other things that can be included on your payslip include:

  • court orders
  • child maintenance payments
  • sick pay
  • maternity, paternity and adoption pay
  • employee benefits
  • student loans
  • other deductions – for example, trade union dues, staff association or workplace sports club fees
  • important messages

Court orders – a court may order money to be taken directly from your salary for unpaid fines or debts to be paid to creditors.

Child maintenance – the Child Maintenance Service can ask for a Deduction of Earnings Order for child maintenance money. Employers can take an additional £1 as a fee for setting up and managing the payment. Many don’t do this, but if they do, this fee has to be shown separately on your payslip.

Sick pay – your company’s sick pay policy will help determine what’s shown on your payslip, together with how long you’ve been ill for.

Typically, your employer should pay you Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) if you’re off work sick for four days or more in a row and you meet certain set conditions. SSP is treated like the wages or salary it replaces, so you should expect to see deductions for tax, National Insurance and student loans.

See more about sick pay.

Maternity, paternity and adoption pay – if you’re a mother who’s just had a baby and are getting Statutory Maternity Pay, you should still get a payslip showing this amount. You may also get maternity pay from your employer and this will be shown as a separate sum.

You and your partner may be able to get Shared Parental Leave (SPL) and Statutory Shared Parental Pay (ShPP) if you’re having a baby or adopting a child. You can share up to 37 weeks of pay between you.

Tax and National Insurance will be deducted as usual from any payments.

Employee benefits – if you get a company car or health insurance, this can affect your tax code and these benefits will be listed on your payslip. Employers may offer a range of benefits, some of which you may need to make payments on, such as a season ticket loan or a cycle to work scheme.

Some employers have a payroll giving scheme as a way of enabling staff to give money to charity without paying tax on it. If you’re using this kind of give-as-you-earn arrangement to make charitable donations, this will also be shown on your payslip.

Student loans – if you’re an eligible employee, you’ll normally start making student loan repayments from the April following the date you graduate or leave your course. HMRC (HM Revenue and Customs) will tell your employer how to work out and deduct the right amount. It’s a good idea to keep your payslips and any P60s (annual statements of earnings and tax) as proof of payment, in case there are any problems with the Student Loans Company.

Other deductions – in some workplaces, you may have your trade union dues taken directly from your pay and this will be shown as a deduction. Some organisations might have a staff association or workplace sports club where a contribution for membership is directly deducted from pay. There’s a sports club payment in our example.

Important messages – employers sometimes use payslips as a place to share important messages or reminders. These won’t necessarily have anything to do with your pay and could vary from health and safety reminders to wishing you a Happy Christmas.

Top tip

It’s a good idea to check your payslip regularly to make sure there aren’t any mistakes and to ensure it shows the same tax code as your latest tax notification.

Frequently asked questions

Does my employer have to give me a payslip?

Yes, with a few exceptions, your employer must give you a payslip on or before your payday if you count as an employee or worker.

Employers don’t have to give you a payslip if you’re:

  • a contractor or freelancer and don’t fall into the ‘employee’ category
  • in the police service
  • a merchant seaman
  • a master or crew member working in share fishing (paid by a share in the profits or gross earnings of a fishing vessel).

It’s up to your employer to decide whether they want to give you printed or online payslips. If you have online payslips, it’s a good idea to download and save a copy in case you need them in future.

Do I need to keep my old payslips?

Ideally, you should keep your payslips in a safe place. This helps with:

  • Safety and security. Your payslips contain  information about you and your earnings. If you don’t keep them safe, these details could be used for identity fraud.
  • Record keeping. It’s sensible to keep a record of all your earnings, tax payments, pension payments and student loan repayments.
  • Proof of earnings. For some financial products, such as mortgages or loans, you might be asked to prove your earnings by showing your last three payslips. 

Useful to know

Your payslips can be used as proof of your earnings, tax paid and any pension contributions.

What can I do if there’s an issue with my payslip?

If you think there’s been a mistake on your payslip, the first thing to do is to speak to your manager or the payroll department.

If you’ve just started a new job you might be on an emergency tax code, which will mean you get less money than you should. This should be resolved when HMRC updates its records, but if it continues after three months you’ll need to contact HMRC. You can also check your tax code at GOV.UK.