Employing university students

Alan Price – CEO at BrightHR

October 10 2016

As universities across the country open their doors to the latest intake of students, many of them will be looking for part-time positions to help support their finances – and many businesses will look to recruit them to fill vacant roles. Over 70% of students will work while at university – but as an employer, are there any recruitment rules you need to be aware of? University students in employment don’t have any extra rights solely because they’re students. Their rights will often depend on how they’re employed. Figures show that around 20% of people on zero hours contracts are in full-time education – which is due to the added flexibility that these contracts allow them while working around their studies. The status of the student on a zero hour contract could be that of employee or worker, and employers should be aware that the difference in status will result in differing rights. Similarly, if students are employed on part-time contracts, they shouldn’t be treated less favourably than full-time workers – for example, entitlement to holiday will be the same for both full and part-time workers, although it will be calculated pro rata for the latter. Discrimination and pay Even if you think the role advertised is suitable for a student, i.e. because it’s part time and flexible, you should ensure that it’s still fairly advertised and is non-discriminatory. This means avoiding recruitment phrases such as:
  • Youthful
  • Student
  • First-year student
It’s pretty clear that these are likely to constitute age discrimination against older applicants. Students who are employed by the business for the whole of their university degree are likely to progress through the bands set for National Minimum Wage and, for older students, National Living Wage entitlements. It’s important that employers are aware of the student’s age at the beginning of employment and then track their birthdays, so they can be moved from one rate to another. Being unaware of age increases will not release employers from their liability to pay the correct minimum wage and a failure to do so means that you’re breaking the law. Overseas students Students come to the UK to study from all over the world, but for those who’ve come from outside the European Economic Area, employers will need to check whether their right to work is restricted. Student visas will usually limit the number of hours that can be worked while studying and you’ll need to get evidence of their enrolment and term dates from their university. The normal right to work document checks will also have to be conducted to ensure everything is above board.

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