Gross Pay vs Net Pay: Understanding the Difference

August 22nd, 2023

It’s important to understand the differences between Gross and Net pay, in order to optimise your global payroll process.

Handling payments is an important part of running a business. Employees must also understand what they are paid and what can and should be deducted from their salaries. That is the difference between gross pay and net pay, a fundamental cornerstone of financial literacy. 

The dissonance between what people are expected to receive at the end of a month’s work and what they eventually receive can be frustrating if these differences aren’t made clear. For businesses, not making the right deductions and payments can present several risks, putting the company’s integrity and reputation in danger. 

In this article, we will cover what gross pay and net pay are, the differences between the two, and how to calculate deductions. With a better grasp of these discrepancies, businesses and employees alike will know what to expect. 

What is gross pay?

Gross pay, also known as gross income or gross earnings, refers to the total amount of money an individual earns before any deductions or taxes are taken out. It includes all the compensation received by an employee for their work, including wages, salaries, bonuses, overtime pay, and any other forms of income provided by the employer.

The amount does not factor in any withholdings, deductions, or contributions, which might include income taxes, social security contributions, retirement fund contributions, health insurance premiums, and other benefits that an employee might receive.

In essence, gross pay represents the total compensation earned by an individual from their employer before any financial obligations or deductions are subtracted. It’s an important figure to understand, as it provides a baseline for evaluating an individual’s total earnings and is used as the starting point to calculate net pay, which is the actual amount of money an employee takes home after all deductions are accounted for.

What is net pay?

Net pay is the actual amount of money an individual receives after all deductions and taxes have been subtracted from their gross pay. It represents the amount of money that an employee gets to keep for personal use and financial obligations once all required withholdings have been accounted for.

The process of calculating net pay involves subtracting various deductions from the gross pay. 

What is deducted from gross pay?

In the United Kingdom, various deductions are taken from an employee’s gross pay to arrive at their net pay. These deductions include both mandatory contributions and optional benefits. 

Here are some common deductions that are typically subtracted from gross pay:

Income tax

Income tax is deducted from an employee’s pay based on their income and tax code. The tax code is assigned by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) and takes into account personal allowances and other factors.

National insurance contributions

National Insurance (NI) contributions are mandatory deductions that fund the National Health Service (NHS) and various state benefits, including retirement pensions. NI contributions are categorised into different classes based on an individual’s employment status and earnings.

Pension contributions

If an employee is enrolled in a workplace pension scheme, contributions are deducted from their gross pay. The amount of the deduction can vary depending on the type of pension scheme and the level of contributions agreed upon.

Student loan repayments

If the employee has a student loan, repayments are deducted based on their income. The amount deducted is determined by the type of student loan and the earnings threshold.

Salary sacrifice schemes

Some employees might participate in salary sacrifice schemes for benefits like childcare vouchers, cycle-to-work schemes, or other perks. The value of the benefit is deducted from the gross pay before taxes.

Union dues

If an employee is a member of a trade union, membership dues might be deducted.

Other deductions

Additional deductions might include health insurance premiums, charitable donations through payroll giving, and repayments for overpayments or advances. 

Payslips must provide a breakdown of all deductions and contributions, and it is important for employees to review this document regularly. 

These deductions can vary based on individual circumstances and employment agreements, as well as the country of operations or employment.

How to calculate gross and net pay?

As discussed, deductions can vary widely based on factors such as location, employment agreements, and individual circumstances. 

Since managing payrolls can be challenging, consulting with experts can provide you with a guarantee that all requirements are fulfilled, and employees are paid fairly and in accordance with local laws.

To accurately calculate gross and net pay, companies need to have a very clear understanding of what deductions apply to each employee and what local rules and regulations require. Here’s how to calculate both:

Calculating gross pay

To calculate gross pay, it is important to remember that the amount includes regular earnings, overtime earnings, and other payments that might be included. 

Identify earnings components

Determine all sources of income for the pay period, such as regular wages, overtime, bonuses, and commissions.

Calculate regular earnings

Multiply the regular hourly wage by the number of hours worked during the pay period. For salaried employees, use their predetermined salary for the period.

Calculate overtime earnings

If the employee worked overtime, calculate the additional pay using the overtime rate (usually 1.5 times the regular hourly wage) for each overtime hour worked.

Add other earnings

Include any other forms of income, such as bonuses or commissions, in the calculation.

Sum up earnings

Add up all calculated earnings components to arrive at the gross pay.

Calculating net pay

Once you’ve calculated gross pay, it is easier to calculate net pay, as the amount is equal to gross pay minus deductions. 

Determine deductions

Identify all deductions that will be subtracted from the gross pay. Common deductions include income tax, National Insurance contributions, pension contributions, student loan repayments, and other benefits.

Subtract deductions

Subtract the total deductions from the gross pay to arrive at the net pay.

Why is it important to know the difference between gross pay and net pay?

By now, you should have a better understanding of what gross and net pay are, what you should deduct from employees’ salaries and how to calculate each amount.

However, more than knowing how to determine these amounts, knowing the difference between them helps companies and employees make informed financial decisions, manage finances, and plan for the future.

Here are some of the reasons why knowing how gross and net pay differ is important:

Financial planning

Understanding the distinction between gross pay and net pay helps individuals create effective financial plans. Net pay is the amount of money available for day-to-day expenses, savings, investments, and other financial goals. Knowing how much money you actually have to work with allows for better budgeting and financial decision-making.


Net pay is what you’ll use to cover your living expenses, bills, and discretionary spending. By knowing your net pay, you can create a realistic budget that aligns with your financial goals and helps you avoid overspending.

Tax management

Understanding gross pay and net pay helps you comprehend the impact of income taxes and other deductions. Knowledge of your net pay helps you plan for potential tax liabilities and ensures that you set aside the appropriate funds to cover taxes owed.

Negotiating employment terms

When considering a new job offer or negotiating a raise, understanding the difference between gross pay and net pay allows you to assess the actual financial benefits of the offer. It enables you to evaluate the complete compensation package, including benefits and potential deductions.

Healthcare and benefits

Many benefits, such as health insurance premiums and retirement contributions, are often calculated based on gross pay. By understanding your gross pay, you can make informed decisions about enrolling in benefits programs.

Legal compliance

When it comes to legal obligations like child support payments, understanding gross pay is important, as these obligations are often calculated based on gross income.

Avoiding financial mistakes

Confusing gross pay and net pay can lead to financial mismanagement. Overspending based on gross pay without considering deductions can result in financial strain when bills come due.


The difference between gross pay and net pay might seem subtle, but understanding how these two amounts differ and how to calculate them is crucial for better financial planning.

Deductions are not only an obligation for companies but also a right for employees. Therefore, companies should be aware of local tax laws and regulations to properly calculate net payments and make the necessary contributions.

Employees must be informed about their salaries and these distinctions, helping them plan for expenses and ensuring their legal rights are met. Contact Briars Group if you need help understanding payment obligations and payroll management.

Read more global payroll articles here.

Amanda Simon

Amanda is our Chief People Officer and joined in 2022 with over 30 years HR experience focused on International Consultancy services. As a member of the Executive Leadership Team she is responsible for HR and Payroll services and internal HR strategy. Amanda has CIPD, FedEE and SHRM certifications to support her technical knowledge and has a passion for improving employee engagement. Amanda spends much of her spare time with her family, including 5 grandchildren, her role it seems is to provide snacks, food and the odd taxi service! When she is able, she prefers winter sun breaks to get away from the harsh UK weather!