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Saturday, 1 October 2016

Employing students? Top tips for the new term

Employing students? Top tips for the new term

In university towns and cities around the country, students are settling in for the start of the academic year. As Freshers week comes to an end, many students are starting to look for part-time work to fund living costs for the year ahead. Over three-quarters of UK students work during their time at university, a large labour force. So if your business is on the lookout for bright part-time temporary workers, this is the best time to find them.

What do you need to watch out for? Here are our top tips when you’re employing students:

1. Go easy but set firm boundaries

Using students for straightforward jobs while they study gives them a taster of your sort of business, one that might sow a seed of interest that develops over time into a lifelong passion. There are many stories of Chief Executives and senior directors who joined their company as a student working part-time and progressed to greater things.

To start with though, newby students will most likely be facing new challenges and learning experiences just by starting work: a full working day, staying off social media for long periods of time, being punctual and turning up reliably even with a hangover. If they also need to be on their feet all day, work out change and be courteous to a wide variety of adults, they will probably be shattered initially, so cut them some slack.

Of course some won't pick up the norms in the workplace very well and you will need to spell out the boundaries more explicitly.

2. Decide on contractual terms beforehand

Terms of employment are quite straightforward if your business requires the student to work the same hours each week. Employers must be sure that they do not treat any part-time staff less favourably than those working full-time and they must not be disadvantaged in relation to employment benefits, such as paid bank holiday entitlement.

If yours is the sort of business where demand fluctuates very significantly and is hard to predict, a zero hours contract may work better. Despite the negative press coverage, the flexibility that can come with a zero hours contract may be very welcome to students.
You will need to decide whether or not the zero hours contract will have a mutual obligation for you to offer hours to the worker and for the worker to accept the hours offered. The employer can require zero hours workers to accept the hours they are offered. However this may be unattractive to students if they have assignment deadlines or mandatory laboratory time as part of their course.

Exclusivity clauses in zero hours contracts, which prohibit people from working for another employer, are unlawful.

3. Check for restrictions on working hours when employing foreign students

If you are employing students from outside the European Economic Area, you must check for limitations on their right to work in the UK. For example, there may be a restriction on the number of hours that they can work while studying.
As well as the usual document checks to establish that they have the right to work in the UK, under Immigration rules you will need evidence from the institution where they’re studying, showing the term dates covering the period of employment.

4. Ensure your payroll system flags up the right time to increase pay

If you are paying any employees at or near the national minimum wage rate, ensure that your system will pick up on birthdays and alert you, so that you can increase pay at the right time:

• 25 and over, £7.20 an hour;
• 21 to 24 inclusive, £6.95 an hour;
• 18 to 20 inclusive, £5.55; and
• 16 and 17 year olds, £4 an hour.

5. Don’t restrict recruitment to students only

You might be recruiting for a role that you think would be perfect for a student.

However, focusing your recruitment only on students might put you at risk of an age discrimination claim from an older applicant who would have been just as suitable for the job.
So don’t use phrases like “student wanted” in your job adverts.

6. Assess student workers for pension auto-enrolment

If your company has passed its staging date and is now auto-enrolling workers into a workplace pension scheme, keep an eye on your obligations to part-time workers.
Someone working a few hours a week during term time would probably not earn enough to be auto-enrolled, but if they then work full-time for a period, for example over the summer holidays, depending on their age (22 upwards) and earnings there may be a legal obligation to auto-enrol them.

Even if you don’t have to auto-enrol your student employee, they may have the right to opt in to your pension scheme. If you do receive such a request, you can congratulate yourself on hiring the most financially responsible student in the country. And yes, you will need to enrol the student into the scheme.

For practical advice on setting clear boundaries in the workplace, terms for zero hours contracts, equal employment right for part-timers, assessing for pension auto enrolment and all the other issues around employing people, contact us at The Human Resource on enquiries@thehr.co.uk.