As you may have noticed, work experience or volunteer opportunities may be more sought after during the summer months. During that time schools, colleges and universities break up for the summer holidays and students can use this free time to gain skills and experience. This is a great opportunity for organisations to save on wage costs during the summer months which are usually one of the busiest periods for most businesses. However, there are a few things which employers should be aware when creating summer work experience programmes.
Does the National Minimum Wage apply?
Whether you should pay the National Minimum/Living Wage rate to someone doing work experience for your business depends on their employment status and whether they are carrying out work for you. Students of compulsory school age undertaking work experience are not entitled to the NMW. Similarly, students who have stayed in full-time or part-time education studying towards a further or higher education course are also not entitled to the NMW for any work experience lasting no more than a year that they carry out as a requirement of their course. Employers should note that this does not apply to any other employment which is not connected to their course, such as having a part time job to support their income.
In some cases, where the work experience is classed as a ‘placement’ or ‘internship’ with the aim to offer experience in a particular career, the individual may be entitled to at least NMW. That depends on whether they are classed as a worker or a volunteer for NMW purposes. If they are carrying out work tasks as you would expect from your other employees and have they own duties and responsibilities, they are more likely to be a worker and entitled to the NMW.
Contract or Written Agreement?
When allowing someone in your business on a work experience basis, they will not work under an employment contract, but you may sign a written agreement. A written agreement may set out all the points discussed and agreed upon by both sides, such as learning objectives, workplace activities or any agreement to cover expenses.
Employers should be mindful that young workers, or those under the age of 18, have different limits to their working hours and are entitled to different rest breaks compared to normal employees. Those over compulsory school age but under 18 are entitled to at least 30 minutes rest break if they work more than 4 and a half hours. They must also be allowed a 12 hour daily rest and a weekly rest of 48 hours, compared to the 11 hours and 24 hours respectively for over 18s.