Employing university students

Many university students will have finished or be very close to finishing the academic year and be looking for some work over the summer months to earn some cash. 

When employing university students, there are a few things you need to consider.

Recruitment

Most young people will use the internet and social media to search for a job. Therefore you should try and use a wide variety of platforms to advertise your vacancies.

You also need to be careful when drafting job adverts to avoid discrimination. For example, you shouldn’t say that you are looking for a “recent graduate” or someone “youthful” or “young”. The reason for this is that it could be seen that you are excluding someone from applying the job due to their age.

It is also important that those employees who are in charge of recruitment are fully trained to shortlist and interview those applicants on the basis of their objective merits, rather than on an applicant’s age.

Minimum wage

Workers are entitled to the national minimum wages rates. There is no special “student” rate – the minimum they are legally entitled to will depend on their age.

As of April 2017, the National Living Wage (the rate for those aged 25 and over) is £7.50 per hour.

The National Minimum Wage (for those under the age of 25) is as follows:

  • for 21 to 24 year olds, the rate is £7.05
  • for 18 to 20 year olds, the rate is £5.60
  • for 16 to 17 year olds, the rate is £4.05.

If you have students that come to work for you year after year, it is vital to monitor their age to ensure you are paying them the correct minimum wage.

Zero hours contracts

If an individual is studying, zero hours contracts may be an attractive option as they offer students the chance to work and earn some income without having to leave aside their education. If they do get called to work, they can turn it down if they can’t do it due to exams or class.

Some students see it as a way to get their foot in the door because it may give rise to permanent opportunities with an organisation at a later stage.

If you are engaging someone on a zero hours contract, you should clearly state their employment status, what their rights are and ensure that you are not enforcing any exclusivity clauses.

Rights

Just because they work part-time or are on a zero hours contract, this does not mean they have no rights.

As an employee, they may be entitled to a wide array of rights, including redundancy pay, maternity leave and unfair dismissal.

As a worker, they are entitled to certain employment law rights including:

  • to be paid the National Minimum Wage/National Living Wage
  • 28 days of annual leave (pro rated according to how much they work)
  • not to be discriminated against on basis of age, disability, race, etc
  • not suffer any unlawful deductions from wages.

Equally, just because someone works part-time does not mean an employer can treat them less favourably than a comparable full-time worker. However in some cases, the pro rata principle applies. If a full-time employee has the right to 28 days of paid annual leave per year, an employee who works three days will be entitled to 16.8 days of annual paid leave.

Overseas students

If you are employing students from outside the European Economic Area, you must check that they are eligible to work. There may be some limits to how many hours they can work, therefore make sure that managers are aware of restrictions and adhere to them to avoid penalties.

Younger workers

If you are employing younger workers (a worker who is over the compulsory school age, but is still under the age of 18­), you need to be aware of restrictions on the types of work they can do, working time rules, health and safety considerations and night work restrictions.

Remember…

Our Employment Law Advisers are also available to answer you HR and Employment Law queries.  If you have any questions about recruitment, pay, contracts or employment status, give us a ring.

Director of Legal Services

James Tamm

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