Guide | Key things to know when hiring students

Thousands of students up and down the country will be finishing off their exams and waiting anxiously for their results to see if they got that desired spot at university. 

To earn some extra cash, some will need to work alongside their studies and this provides employers with some great opportunities.

Hiring students can provide you with fresh and innovative ideas. They often have strong technology skills and a desire to learn. International students will bring different languages to help you deal with customers or suppliers in foreign markets.

When hiring university students, there are some key things to think about from a HR and Employment Law perspective.

Hiring students from overseas

If you are hiring students from outside the European Economic Area, you must check that they are eligible to work for you. There may be some limits to how many hours they can work, therefore make sure that all the relevant checks are made.

Avoid discrimination

We have seen many cases of employers getting into trouble because of the way they have advertised roles and dealt with the recruitment process.

When you are drafting the job advert, you should refrain from saying ‘student wanted’. By law, it is not permissible to discriminate because of a ‘protected characteristic’ specified in the Equality Act. One of the protected characteristics is age. So when drafting your advert, take a moment to ask yourself whether the way you are putting yourself at risk of age discrimination.

When making hiring decisions, you should focus on assessing an applicant’s suitability for the job and explore the areas set out in the job description, person specification and application form.

Make sure you are paying the right minimum wage

There is no special ‘student minimum wage rate’ – the minimum they are legally entitled to will depend on their age. 

As of April 2018, the National Living Wage (the rate for those aged 25 and over) is £7.83 per hour.

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

  • 21 to 24 year olds, the rate is £7.38
  • for 18 to 20 year olds, the rate is £5.90
  • those ages 16 to 17 year old, the rate is £4.20

You may have some students who come back every summer, so it is important to keep an eye on their age to make sure you are paying them the correct minimum wage.

Take care when engaging students on zero-hours contracts

If an individual is studying, they may consider that a zero hours contract is the best option for them. These types of contracts mean that they can take up work to earn some extra cash, but they can turn work down if they can’t do it due to their educational commitments. It can also be a good way to get their face in front of an employer – this casual work could lead to opportunities in the future.

For employers,  hiring students on a zero-hours contract means they have a pool of people available who can help them respond to any fluctuation of business demands. Employers should follow the following tips to ensure they stay on the right side of the law:

  • Clearly advertise the role as being on a zero-hours basis.
  • Those on zero-hours contracts do have rights. It is important to understand their employment status and what they are legally entitled to. If in doubt, seek legal advice!
  • Seek legal advice when you are unsure of how to work out someone’s annual leave entitlement or holiday pay.
  • Try and give as much notice as possible of available work and avoid cancelling at the last minute.
  • Make sure you are not enforcing any exclusivity clauses. Employers cannot have provisions in the individual’s Contract of Employment which restricts someone on a zero hours contract from undertaking work with another employer or bans them from taking work with another employer without the employer’s consent. If these provisions are in the contract, they are unenforceable.
  • Monitor individual’s hours. If they are being given regular hours, this may affect their employment status.

[infobox] Exclusive Bonus:Get the free Employer’s Definitive Guide to Zero Hours Contracts which gives you expert tips and warnings about everything you really need to know when engaging someone on these types of contracts.Download Now[/infobox]

Think about their rights as part-time workers

Students may work part-time. It is unlawful to treat a part-time worker less favourably than a comparable full-time worker. This means that they have the right to the same pay rate and to receive the same annual leave entitlement (on a pro-rata basis).

To explore further about hiring students, contact your Employment Law Adviser.

Director of Legal Services

James Tamm

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We combine the service quality of a law firm with the certainty of fixed-fee services to provide expert, solutions-focused Employment LawHR and Health & Safety support tailored to employers.

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