Employment FAQs: What do you do if you do not have an NI number? By Nichola Ross Martin

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Health warning! Read this article in conjunction with HMRC correct the helplines

What do you do if your new employee turns up with no National Insurance (NI) number? I decided to update myself on current guidance so I thought I would make a phone call or two. It was not quite as simple as it should have been as I had to make six phone calls before I was happy with the result. I do not think that I got the right one though as the comments below the article reveal.

Back to basics

A NI number is issued to UK residents automatically just before their 16th birthday providing that their parents have claimed child benefit. People coming into the UK from abroad may need to apply for one. The reason that an NI number is important is that it is unique to you and records y...

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24th Jul 2007 17:40

What is the WRS scheme?

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24th Jul 2007 19:58

The above article is totally wrong. Ignore what it says!
The current PAYE/NI instructions are quite clear what to do if you cannot trace an NI number: you leave the field blank. You don't nowadays make up a temporary number from the date of birth and sex[***], as was the case a few years ago. P14's with a temporary number will be rejected by HMRC. If your software insists on a number, then I suggest getting a new payroll software supplier!

Leaving the employee off the books is fraudulent, as is changing their earnings period. I am amazed the article seriously suggests these things! Whether they are paid cash or not, it makes no difference to the requirement to prepare a deduction sheet, and that must use whatever earnings period the employee was on.

I would also point out that there is no requirement in law to have an NI number before you are employed or paid, and refusal to employ or pay someone for not having an NI number would constitute discrimination, unfair constructive dismissal, and illegal deduction of wages! So don't do it!

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By Anonymous
23rd Jul 2007 17:49

Leaving the NI Field Blank
I had no trouble filing a P14 for 06/07 by leaving the NI field blank. This was done because an error message came up telling me the number was already registered and to change the earnings period - which I could not do.The NI number I was trying to input was correct!

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23rd Jul 2007 19:31

NI Numbers
It's all very well asking your employees from the EU to ring the central Jobcentre helpline for an appointment, but in practice - acting for a seasonal restaurant employing Polish workers - I've found it takes several attempts before they can be persuaded to do so.

There is then a delay in arranging the appointment; the employee has to find his or her way to the local office (in our case over 20 miles on a bus) .

There's then another delay after the interview and generally the employee has gone home before any NI number arrives.

Last year I just sent in several P14's and P35 - using the Revenue's excellent PAYE software - with blanks where I genuinely didnt know the NI number. The copy P35 just shows 'null' so I assume that in fact, they dont give a damn about linking the contributions with the contributor's record, as long as they get the money.

I'd be interested to know what other advisers in similar situations did last year ?

If our Government departments were adequately staffed with properly trained officers, the delays could be kept to a minimum. Some hopes !

Same of course with the 'WRS scheme' rip-off which appears to be designed solely to relieve these EU student employees of their money. Our Polish employees are understandably reluctant to send £90 and their passports to be mislaid by an overworked and inefficient central government agency via an uncertain postal service, in case the passports aren't back before they want to leave the country. Ask yourself - would you ?

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By Anonymous
27th Jul 2007 09:59

I sincerely hope that the whole article is not wrong! Especially since I cross referred the main points to HMRC's online guidance! I think that you are referring to part 3 where as the article shows that the helpline advice is inconsistent and wrong.

I am certainly not advising that people alter earnings periods etc even though that was the advice given to me by one of the helpline operatives.

There are still many employees out there with temporary numbers who do not realise what they are, and many employers are likewise not aware either. I was talking to a large payroll agency the other day that makes up numbers as a matter of routine, because this suits their internal needs!

Regarding your comments about it being illegal to withhold payment, I am suggesting that you do not take people on with out the right documentation, not that you do not pay for someone's labour.

One thing is very certain, clearer guidance is needed from HMRC and the helplines should all give out consistent advice. What we have on offer at the moment is totally inadequate.

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By Anonymous
23rd Jul 2007 13:23

Employees without NI numbers
It is all very well saying that you should insist on an NI number before taking on an employee but what about employees from the EU? They may make sufficient contributions in their own country and be exempt from NI here and they will not have a UK NI number.

In addition, you can no longer file a P14 with a temporary NI number.

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