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Iceni Magazine | June 15, 2018

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5 differences between the US and UK work culture

5 differences between the US and UK work culture

There are many similarities between the US and the UK, including its shared language and its interwoven history.

But in the workplace, things are quite different. Here are five differences between the working life of a British and American worker. 

Americans work longer

You won’t see many Americans running to clock out at half five each evening, as the average American works longer hours. According to a infographic created by Foothold America (a business who specialising in helping British companies set up in the US) the average British employee works 37.4 hours a week. But, a week at work for the typical American looks to be around 40 hours. Saying this, 2 out of 3 British workers do not take a full hour for lunch every day. This is similar to 4 out of 5 US workers who don’t leave the office for lunch each day.

US workers are employed at will

Most British workers are employed under a formal contract. This means, in most cases, a British worker can only be fired with reason, and under a particular notice period. America, on the other hand, offers fewer contractual rights to workers. US workers are generally employed at will, which means there’s no contract for employees or employers to be bound by. This may be why most Americans are considered hardworking and committed, as they technically could be asked to leave at any moment (with a few important exceptions).

UK workers are entitled to more benefits

Most commonly, sick pay, paid maternity leave, paid paternity leave and holiday pay are given to UK workers by law, while in America, these are largely considered to ‘benefits’ and up for negotiation.

If a British worker falls ill and needs time off work, they are entitled to a minimum of £89.35 per week for up to 28 weeks, under the guidelines for Statutory Sick Pay. However, in the USA, no amount of money is guaranteed to US workers if they’re sick for any period of time. The Family Medical Leave Act does provide up to 12 weeks’ unpaid leave without a threat of job loss but, it’s up to the company to decide if this will be paid.

In the UK the minimum amount of paid annual leave for full-time employment is equivalent to 5.6 weeks. In America, federal law doesn’t stipulate a minimum, so it’s up to US employers to decide. You’ll find that, on average, American workers receive 10 paid holiday days a year.

The pay gap

There’s a big difference in annual wages between the UK and America. Typically, British employees make £52,000 for a senior position, compared to the US where positions are paid much higher at $104,940. There’s also a substantial difference between the US and the UK with achieving the battle for equal pay. According to research by The Global Gender Gap Report, which compares results from 144 countries on their progress towards gender equality, the United Kingdom ranked 15th in the overall global index in 2017. The United States, however, ranked 49th out of the 144 countries. The study considers things such as economic participation, opportunity, education and political empowerment.

A different office culture

If you walked into an American office, you’d find the general ‘vibe’ to be quite different from that found in a British office. Brits seem to be a little poor with time keeping as meetings rarely run on time, using a different set of business jargon and tend to speak modestly, deflecting praise with self-deprecating humour. Americans tend to be more outspoken, confident and driven. They’re not afraid of self promotion, and they are more than likely to give a compliment with enthusiasm when it’s due. On average, you’ll find meetings begin on time and are usually quite short and straight to the point in the US.

Those are just five differences between US and UK work culture. You’ll notice plenty more differences if you spend any time crossing the Atlantic.


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