Your potential liability
Unless stated in any agreements, you are liable for any individual undertaking work experience (and their actions) as far as you would be for any other member of your team. This includes their rights (Employment Rights Act 1996)Link opens in a new window and your normal responsibilities around fair and equal access to opportunities (Equality Act 2010)Link opens in a new window, employer’s liability and public liability insurance, but also ensuring that any Health and Safety risk assessments have been undertaken and explained to the individual during their induction (see the UK's Health & Safety ExecutiveLink opens in a new window for more information.)
UK National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage
There are relatively few scenarios in which a student would NOT be entitled to the National Minimum Wage (NMW, or the National Living Wage for student aged 23+) one of which is where a student takes a placement as part of their academic degree. Please ensure that you understand your responsibilities, including PAYE processing, NI etc, as this is an area that is increasingly monitored and there are large legal fines for breaching this legislation. If you wish to run payroll for your intern externally, you can use a temping agency, for example the University's own agency, Unitemps, to do this for you.
Right to work checks
UKVI requires that you check the documents of everyone you intend to employ to ensure they have a legal right to work in the UK. For information see the GOV.UK guidance on checking a job applicant's right to work and DBS checks. See gov.uk guidance Coronavirus (COVID-19): right to work checks
Warwick's definition of good work experience
Although not strictly a compliance issue, we feel very strongly about ensuring the quality of experiences offered to our students. As a guide to whether you're providing a 'good' experience, we give our support to placements, internships and work experience opportunities that enable Warwick students to:
- Understand the requirements, expectations and benefits of the role
- Acquire new and develop existing skills and knowledge to enhance work readiness
- Demonstrate their value to current/future employers
- Make new contacts that will benefit them in their career
- Access a wide range of sectors, employers and types of work
- Access work experience without fear of exploitation or discrimination
All opportunities need to...
- Satisfy our Vacancy Advertising Policy, particularly in relation to pay and specifying whether the role is hybrid, remote, on location etc.
- Be accessible to anybody with the skills and potential to succeed.
- Have a clear job description and person specification.
- Provide appropriate management and supervision to the student undertaking the opportunity and include appropriate induction activities.
- Recognise the potential to gain insights into the sector, organisation or workplace, regardless of the position and responsibilities of the role.
- Allow for reasonable flexibility regarding associated study requirements (placements), or time to attend external job interviews if the role is fixed short-term.
Working with student visa holders
Warwick’s student population includes around 30% International students, who can bring diversity and a global perspective to your business, together with in-depth knowledge of different cultures and languages and the opportunity to develop understanding of international markets and new opportunities.
Student visa holders have visa restrictions that differ from UK students, for example a limit on working hours during studies – it is the student’s responsibility to abide by their visa, and your responsibility as an employer to check you understand any restrictions as part of checking potential employees’ right to work in the UK. To see the advice we give these students about working hours etc. please see our student-facing Immigration Service webpages about working on a Student visa. Even though non-student visa holders have no working hour restrictions, we would still recommend that those students also do not work more than 20 hours per week.
Postgraduate students (Masters and PhD) who have study commitments such as writing a dissertation, attending conferences, teaching and development training will affect when students are available. You can only employ them for a maximum of 20 hours per week during the full length of the course, they can start full-time after the course end date, or if the work they are doing with you is an assessed and integral part of their course (better known as placement).
All University Term Dates can be found on our website here with graduation taking place in January and July. Please note that the term dates are only relevant to undergraduate students, all other students are considered “term-time” from course start to end date.
Please note that it is illegal for employers to discriminate against international students: whilst the law requires employers to only employ individuals with a right to work in the UK it is unlawful not to accept applications from or employ someone based on their nationality. Some exemptions apply (for example roles relating to national security), but in general employers that refuse to accept applications from people just because they may need a visa could be open to claims of discrimination. Please always refer to the government’s guidance on discrimination and avoid possible claims of indirect race discrimination by instead:
- Accepting and considering applications from any candidates with suitable skills and experience, irrespective of their nationality.
- Using statements such as: “the successful candidate must by the start of their employment have permission to work in the UK” in vacancy advertisements/person specifications.
- If your vacancy is open to international students, you can highlight this in the vacancy list category as ‘Opportunity for international students’ via the myAdvantage jobs portal.
- If you are a non-UK employer, you may need to consult with your equivalent to the UK Visa and Immigration (UKVI) to ensure that you are meeting any legal requirements around hosting international students.
- For information on hiring options under the Graduate and Skilled Worker routes – please see the International Student Employability Group's Recruiting International Graduates: A Guide for Employers.
The majority of requirements remain the same for student visa holders (International Students) and non-visa holders (UK Nationals).
Requirements only differ in relation to when undergraduates can start work during vacation periods, 'self-employment', 'business activity' and freelance work and taking a voluntary year out for work experience.
Here is more information on where requirements remain the same and where they differ.
Employers and Public liability Insurance in place: remains the same for all students.
Right to work checks: are required for all workers.
Income Tax & National Insurance contributions: are the same for all workers.
Working during term time: is limited to 20 hours a week for all students (depending on personal and study commitments).
Working during vacation periods for postgraduate students: is limited to 20 hours a week. (See below for the different requirements for undergraduate students depending on whether they are a student visa holder or a non visa holder.)
Offering a student placement:
There are no differences in requirements if a placement is:
- an assessed part of their course
- no more than 50% of the course
- approved by the University (which remains partly responsible throughout).
You will need to remain mindful of different requirements for student visa holders (International Students) and non-visa holders (UK Nationals) in relation to:
Working during vacation periods for undergraduate students: Student visa holders (international students) can work full time after the end of term. Non-visa holders (UK Nationals) can work full time once they have finished their studies and exams for the year, which could be before the end of term.
‘Self-employment’ or ‘Business activity’: is strictly not permitted for student visa holders (international students), please see the UKCISA for further information on the types of work students are able to do.
Freelance work is permitted under UK employment law for non-visa holders (UK Nationals), however this is complex to advertise within many advertising policies, as by definition it does not come with a quantifiable income.
Voluntary year out for work experience: is not possible for a student visa holder (international students) as this is a temporary withdrawal from their course. Student non-visa holders (UK Nationals) can take a year out from their course to undertake voluntary work experience.
All students should have an additional 4 months of visa after the end date of their course to allow them to wait for their results and decide what to do next. For an undergraduate student this might be the period in between June and October, and for a Master’s student this is usually the period between September and January.
During this time, they can work full time on their student visas, as long as they do not fill a permanent vacancy or work on a freelance basis. If you require some guidance on, please refer to our immigration team’s student facing page ‘Employment during and after your studies’.
It has never been easier to hire from the rich pool of international talent coming from UK higher education providers. Employers without a Skilled Worker Sponsor Licence can still hire student visa holders via the Graduate Route, which is ideal if you have a fixed-term project, aren’t yet sure of your longer-term requirements, or are looking to access skills or fill gaps.
The UK Government introduced the Graduate Route post-study work visa from summer 2021. This is an unsponsored route and allows the majority of student visa holders successfully completing their degree level course or above at the University of Warwick to apply to remain in the UK for a further period of 2-3 years (depending on their level of study) to work or look for work at any skill level.
This represents a significant increase in flexibility for employers when considering applications from student visa holders.
Undergraduates apply for their visa from July-November in the year of graduation. Postgraduate taught students (Masters students) are more likely to apply November-January in the year of graduation, based on the completion date of their studies. PhD students can apply once their degree is complete.
For further information please see:
The Skilled Worker route that has replaced the Tier 2 visa for hiring longer term, the hiring organisation will need to sponsor the applicant to do a role which meets the skill and salary requirements outlined by the Home Office, see GOV.UK Skilled Worker Visa.
- 'Internship' came from the USA to refer to (unpaid) graduate development opportunities, but in the UK it has no legal definition – you need to specify the requirements, expectations and benefits of a given role
- While unpaid internships are legal in some countries, in the UK it is illegal to pay any worker less than the National Minimum Wage (or the National Living Wage for student aged 23+)
You have the same responsibilites even if the person in front of you offers to work for free!
Watch out for additional working hours!
An easy mistake to make would be to employ a student to work for 37 hours per week, at National Minimum Wage, then ask them to work for a few extra hours – this would mean that you were effectively paying them at less than NMW. This would be the case even if the student offered or insisted on staying late – bear in mind that the responsibility (and liability) lies with you for that person to be paid for the hours they have worked.
For information around maximum weekly working hours and the Working Time Directive (which counts for students too) read the UK Government Guidelines here on maximum working hours.
HolidayIf you will be paying your intern by the hour, don't forget that they are entitled to holiday.Link opens in a new window
Understand the implications of sick pay entitlement when employing a student in any capacityLink opens in a new window.