Living as an South-African expat in the UK- 5 things you need to know

As most South African Living as an South-African expat in the UK- 5 things you need to know will tell you, arriving in the UK involves a steep learning curve. From which end of the Tube platform to stand at to get a seat – through to what time to telephone the GP’s receptionist to actually get an answer, knowledge comes with experience.

But some things are too important to learn about through trial and error. As such, international healthcare insurance specialists, Cigna Global have picked out five aspects of UK life that ought to be on your radar.

Tenants: always factor in travel costs before signing a lease
Let’s face it, public transport in the UK doesn’t come cheap, and rail commuters have just been told to expect a price hike of 2.3% in 2017. That flat you’ve been looking at in Zone 6 might seem like a relative bargain compared to your Zone 2 houseshare, but always remember to factor in travel costs as part of your calculations.

Parents: don’t book flights home for the family in term time without permission.

You may have noticed that South Africa’s winter break comes to an end just as English schools are breaking up for summer term. Likewise, you may be planning on taking the kids out of school to meet up with family over summer break (which is considerably longer than the UK’s Christmas holidays).

Removing children from school during term time is a controversial topic in the UK. Official policy is that holidays in term time are only allowed in “exceptional circumstances”. It’s up to the head teacher to decide whether leave should be granted. Don’t expect this to be granted automatically, and always clarify the position before making any arrangements. Fines can be levied for unauthorised absences. Read the school’s website carefully and check out this official guidance.

Students: it is possible to work and study
As an international student, you can work part time up to 20 hours a week during term time and full-time during the holidays. The only proviso is that your educational establishment must appear on both the government’s list of institutions licensed to support migrant students and on the list of recognised bodies with degree-awarding authority. This is part of the government’s recent clampdown on ‘fake colleges’. Check the lists to ensure your place of learning appears on both.

Employees: know your rights on unfair dismissal
There’s always the risk that unscrupulous employers will try to take advantage of your unfamiliarity with local rules to treat you unfairly – so it’s worth reading up on your rights. Areas to consider closely are the National Minimum Wage and Living Wage, as well as the rules on when and for what reasons it is possible for an employer to dismiss you – i.e. unfair dismissal.

Healthcare: IPMI can prove invaluable
No healthcare system is perfect – and this includes the UK’s renowned National Health Service. Although it has the free at the point of service element in its favour, expats are often taken by surprise by its shortcomings – especially when it comes to waiting times for specialist referrals and diagnostic tests.

For an expat, International Private Medical Insurance can be invaluable. Not only can it make it easier to access the treatment you and your family need when you need it, you can also opt for the reassurance of repatriation cover and fill in the gaps in existing company health coverage.


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