For many of us workers, the summer holidays present an opportunity to escape the office for (hopefully) some sun and relaxation. However, the school holidays provide a perfect time for school children (and those in further/higher education) to dip their toes into the world of work, beef up their CVs and indulge in a bit of work experience. The period of work experience can vary from a couple of days to several months. In addition, there can be a huge variation in the tasks the individual is required to perform, from simple 'work-shadowing' to more demanding tasks and 'actual' hands-on experience. In 'my day' there were far fewer rules and regulations around and work experience was a much simpler notion: it was rarely paid and consisted mainly of making tea. However, with the introduction of a raft of regulations governing employment related issues, employers need to be much more aware of students' possible rights. Katie Lancaster considered some of these issues in relation to interns (which are generally more relevant to university aged individuals and above with a higher level of qualification) in her previous post which can be found here.
I set out below a few additional points for employers who might be considering taking on a work experience student:
- Any person who is not over compulsory school age (ie they have not completed the school year in which they turn 16) is deemed to be a 'child' for the relevant legislation;
- A 'young person' is someone who is over compulsory school age but under 18.
- In general, there are restrictions on how children and young people can be employed – these include restrictions on: age limits (unless the position is relaxed by local authority bye-laws, children under 14 years old may not be employed); the number of hours and when they can be employed; and the rates of pay they should enjoy (children are not technically entitled to the National Minimum Wage but 'young workers' have a specific rate – currently £3.87).
- In certain circumstances there are specific exemptions that apply to work-experience schemes - children who are in the last two years of their school, may take part in work experience schemes but must work for no more than 8 hours a day or 40 hours a week. In addition, the work must not be beyond the child's physical or psychological capacity, be in heavy industries, or be in premises where alcohol is sold (and the child is unaccompanied and under 16).
- There are often question marks over whether someone on work experience is deemed to be a worker and/or employed. Students undertaking work experience who are of compulsory school age are not entitled to the NMW nor do they have employment rights as a worker, often they are simply offered some 'expenses'. If someone is above compulsory school age but has stayed on in full or part-time education, they are entitled to the NMW unless they are undertaking a work placement as a required part of their studies.
- Students required to do an internship for less than one year as part of a UK-based further or higher education course are not entitled to the NMW. S
- omeone who is doing a placement that does not involve any work being performed, such as work shadowing, will not be entitled to the NMW.
- Children do not have a statutory right to paid annual leave, but young workers may accrue this right.
- Consider carrying out a risk assessment to identify any additional risks to the young person and ensure that the person knows how to raise any concerns.
- Plan the placement in advance to ensure that both parties get the most out of the experience - it is advisable to draw up an agreement which documents the key elements of the arrangement, particularly if there are issues of confidentiality etc involved.
- The work placement should be covered by your employer-liability insurance but in some cases your insurer needs to be notified – so check your policy on this.
- Organisations that offer work placements to students need to be live to any relevant safeguarding issues, particularly if the work involves a 'regulated activity'(ie is unsupervised and there is frequent contact with the child) and the child is under 16.