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The lowest paying jobs in the UK

Do you wonder if you’re being paid a fair wage or are you just looking for a new career? Then take a look at the lowest paying jobs in the UK.

lowest paying jobs in the UK

10 worst paying jobs

  • Playworkers £15,394
  • Cook £16,964
  • Launderers, Dry Cleaners and Pressers £17,145
  • Educational Support Assistants £17,212
  • Hairdressers and Barbers £17,223
  • Pharmacy and other dispensing assistants £17,388
  • Kitchen and Catering Assistants £17,437
  • Shelf Fillers £17,538
  • Elementary Sales Occupations n.e.c. £17,629
  • Waiters and Waitresses £17,633

Lowest paying jobs in the UK

A little while back, I wrote a post about the highest paying jobs in the UK. Of course, we’re all interested in earning lots of money and so naturally look for how much we can potentially earn. Unfortunately, these jobs are out of reach for many of us. Either we don’t have money behind us, the motivation or are just not clever enough.

But as I did my research, I stumbled across a lot of information about jobs that didn’t pay quite so well and I thought, why not share that too?

The sad thing is, many of these lower-paid jobs are essential, we couldn’t get by without them and they’re usually hard work too. But because they often don’t need qualifications, they are poorly paid.

But the pay isn’t everything. These jobs generally carry little stress; once you leave work, you can forget everything. And you get the chance to work with like-minded people. I still look back at my four years stacking shelves at Sainsbury’s with great fondness.

The worst paid jobs in the UK

Below are the lowest paid jobs in the UK, with the data taken from the Office of National Statistics website.


Playworkers are often defined as somebody that supports children and young people to create their own spaces and opportunities for play. They generally work in before and after-school clubs or hospitals and can be referred to as a play assistant, crèche worker or play carer.

The main focus of a playworker is to supervise children and to make sure they’re happy and safe. Although wages aren’t great, they can sometimes rise to as much as £30,000 per year.

Although you don’t necessarily need qualifications, it may be useful to have:

  • Level 2 Award in Outdoor Play Practice.
  • Level 2 Certificate for the Children and Young People’s Workforce.
  • Level 3 Diploma in Children’s Play, Learning and Development.
  • T level in Education.

A first aid certificate might also be useful.

Average wage: £15,394

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Cook are different from chefs. They prepare food, but these are often basic dishes and need little more than warming up. Other responsibilities may include managing food stations, cleaning the kitchen and helping the chefs.

Once you have ample experience, you could become a chef, which can pay £50,000+ in some top restaurants.

You won’t need any qualifications, but a food hygiene course may help you to find employment.

Average wage: £16,964

Launderers, Dry Cleaners and Pressers

As a laundry worker, you’ll operate washing machines and tumble dryers to clean and dry items like clothes, bed linen and uniforms.

There isn’t much in the way of career progression and wages will reach a maximum of around £18,000 per year.

With regards to qualifications, it’s useful to have G.C.S.E.s although there are also apprenticeships available.

Average wage: £17,145

Educational Support Assistants

You will work with teachers to provide one-to-one support for children with particular learning needs. This may include identifying signs of distress and offering reassurance, implementing care programmes, helping and encouraging a child to communicate and attending to a child’s physical needs.

You may require certain academic qualifications depending on the employer. However, some just require experience. You will need CRB clearance.

Average wage: £17,212

Hairdressers and Barbers

A job that needs little introduction as I’m sure nearly all of us have paid them a visit at some point. A hairdresser or barber will cut, style and colour clients’ hair for a desired look.

Although at the lower-end of the pay scale, it is unclear whether this figure considers tips.

If you make it to the top of the profession, you can make a very good wage.

You will need to take a college course or an apprenticeship to get started. It is possible to work without either of these by working as a trainee hairdresser in a salon.

Average wage: £17,223

Pharmacy and other dispensing assistants

This role requires working under the direct supervision of a pharmacist or other relevant health professionals. The bulk of the work requires dispensing drugs and medicines, issuing pre-packaged prescriptions, selling over-the-counter medication and dispensing spectacles and contact lenses.

You can gain entry into this job with help from a college course (such as Level 2 Certificate in Retail Skills) or an apprenticeship. However, neither of these are essential to have.

Average wage: £17,388

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Kitchen and Catering Assistants

Kitchen and catering assistants help prepare and serve food and drinks in restaurants, cafés and other eating establishments and perform various cleaning, fetching and carrying tasks.

You won’t need formal qualifications and are often trained on the job. However, an NVQs/ SVQs in a relevant area may be desirable for employers.

Average wage: £17,437

Shelf Fillers

The job I have a soft spot for as I did it for my first ever employment. Shelf fillers (or stackers) are responsible for putting stock on supermarket shelves and display cabinets. They also need to check for out-of-date items and help customers.

You don’t need any qualifications for the job, but a college course like a Level 1 Award in Retail Knowledge or Certificate in Retail Business may help.

Average wage: £17,538

Elementary Sales Occupations n.e.c.

Roles vary, but tasks often involve stripping old posters from hoardings, fitting new posters using brushes, and working from a ladder if necessary. You may also need to collect shopping baskets and trolleys in and around wholesale/retail establishments and positions near the entrance to the store.

No qualifications are needed, and you will be given training on the job.

Average wage: £17,629

Waiters and Waitresses

Waiters serve food and drinks to customers in restaurants and cafes, take customers’ orders and handle payments. Like barbers and hairdressers, it’s unclear whether tips are considered when calculating wages.

Generally, you won’t need any qualifications. Still, it may help if you have a Level 1 Award in Introduction to Employment in the Hospitality Industry or Certificate in Food and Beverage Service.

Average wage: £17,633

Lowest paying UK jobs 11-20

  • Retail Cashiers and Check-out Operators £17,721
  • Cleaners and Domestics £17,819
  • Teaching Assistants £17, 904
  • Fishmongers and Poultry Dressers £18,033
  • Nursery Nurses and Assistants £18,069
  • Dental Nurses £18,621
  • Sales and Retail Assistants £18,798
  • Beauticians and related occupations £18,881
  • Bar Staff £18,911
  • Textiles, Garments and related trades n.e.c. £18,977

To conclude

There’s never any shame in working in any of the above professions; they play a vital role in society. These jobs are great for leading to new careers or for giving employees a wage with little stress.

n.e.c. (not elsewhere classified) refers to all other jobs within a given industry that aren’t classified under another title.