For many students, working part time while studying is part of student life. A 2015 study found that some 77% of students take a part time job during their studies. Whether you’re covering living costs, paying for tuition or saving up, there are many benefits to some extra term time work. The general perception is often that working as a student means you have fewer rights than other employees. You will most likely be employed on a part time basis and you may not even have a contract. However, no matter how casual your agreement, there are still rights that you have, as well as requirements to bear in mind.
Zero hours contracts
The zero hours contract has been quite controversial. It tends to be weighted heavily in favour of an employer. For example, there is no requirement that you are guaranteed work. In fact, you will only be asked to work as and when you’re needed, often at short notice. The advantage of this is that you have greater flexibility over the hours that you work. You can take work that fits around your study commitments and you don’t have to plan for regular shifts. The fundamental right that you have with a zero hours contract is that your employer can’t ask you to work exclusively for them. If they do this then they may no longer be able to call your contract zero hours.
Part time workers rights
Those who are employed part time must not be treated any less favourably than full time employees of a business. So, for example, you should receive the same rate of pay as a full time member of staff doing your job (pro rata to the hours you work). Make sure you are also offered the same benefits as a full time member of staff. This could be anything from sick days, to holiday entitlement and being able to take a national bank holiday off.
The minimum wage
As a part time worker you are as entitled to the Minimum Wage as a full time worker. The Minimum Wage is paid on the basis of age so an employer who is paying staff on this basis must increase basic pay as someone gets older. Current Minimum Wage rates are: 21 to 24 year olds £6.95 per hour, 18 to 20 year olds £5.55 per hour and 16 to 17 year olds £4.00 per hour.
Your employer must automatically enrol you into a workplace pension scheme when your earnings go over a certain level. This threshold is currently £10,000 a year. Although many employers don’t consider their part-time employees for pensions auto-enrolment because they aren’t full time, the deciding factor has nothing to do with the number of days or hours worked. So, for example, if you don’t work at all during the year but you spend all your holidays employed, you might easily cross over the threshold. You can opt out of the workplace pension scheme if you do it within a month of being auto-enrolled.
Work should be advertised to people of all ages and not just aimed at students of a certain age. So, employers who place adverts such as “students 18-21 wanted” run the risk of an age discrimination claim. You don’t necessarily have a right to the job if you’re an older student. However, an employer can’t generally give the job to someone else purely on the basis that they are younger.
Currently, students from the UK and the European Economic Area (EEA) have a right to work. For others, there may be the opportunity to work but with limits applied to the number of hours that can be worked while studying. If you’re not from the EEA then make sure you have documentary evidence of the right to work in the UK. You may also need to be able to provide a letter that shows where you’re studying, that you’re enrolled and what the term dates are.
Finance tips for working students
A part time job while studying can be a great little earner, so how do you make the most of it?
If you’re looking for work that is flexible around studies, try your student union or local cafes or bars.
Remember that you may need to pay tax if you earn more than the threshold (currently £917 a month).
Don’t take a job that will disrupt your studies, it’s more important to get a good qualification. Sometimes a personal loan that you can pay off in manageable chunks is a better idea.
Alex Hartley is a keen advocate of improving personal finance skills. She's worked at Solution Loans since 2014 and written hundreds of articles about how people can manage their money better. Her interest in personal finance goes way back to...Read more about Alex Hartley