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Employment

Your rights and responsibilities as a student worker

There are a number of benefits to working during your studies. The most obvious is the boost to your income, but others can include:

  • Enhancing your CV.
  • Gaining experience in the workplace and developing skills that will help your employability in the future.
  • You may gain work experience for your planned career and to supplement your studies, such as through an internship.
  • Making new friends.
  • Building up contacts for the future.
  • Exploring your interests.

We have included some of the most important information about your rights and responsibilities below; if you'd like to read in more detail, the Acas website is an excellent source for learning about employment rights and issues, including template letters that you can use. You can also contact them for impartial advice and they provide a dispute resolution service. If you're having any problems with your employer we also advise getting in touch with your trade union if you are a member - you can go here to find the right union for your workplace.

 

Getting Started //

UK students have already been assigned a National Insurance number - if you've lost it you can fill in a form or phone a helpline to ask for it to be sent to you. Details about lost National Insurance numbers are on the government website.

If you are in the UK on a student visa and you have a biometric residence permit (BRP), you might have a National Insurance number already. Check the back of your BRP to see if the number is on the back of your card - it will look like two letters, six numbers, then one letter. If you don't have a National Insurance number, you must apply for one if you want to work. Information about applying is on the government website.

Students need to pay income tax and national insurance, even for part-time jobs, if they earn more than a certain amount.  You’ll only pay income tax if you earn more than £1,042 a month on average and national insurance if you earn more than £184 a week.

You will only need to pay tax on any amount over your yearly personal tax allowance (this is £12,570 until April 2021). Student grants, student loans, housing benefits, and most scholarships and research awards are not taxed and don’t count towards your personal tax allowance so many students are unlikely to reach the threshold for paying tax.

Your employer will usually pay tax for you, which will be deducted from your pay (PAYE).

Students who work part-time are legally entitled to be treated the same as full-time workers. This means you’re entitled to the same rate of pay, benefits, and holidays as your employer's full-time workers, however this would be proportionate to the number of hours you work in comparison to the full-time workers.

Zero-hour contracts (also known as casual contracts) only pay you for the hours you work. Your employer will not guarantee you a certain number of hours and you don't have to accept hours.  This means you have less certainty about how much you can earn, but you also have fewer obligations to your employer.

Minimum wages and working time regulations will still apply. 

Full-time students on student visas can have temporary jobs but you can't be self-employed or set up a business.

You must be careful not to go over the work limit of 10 hours a week for a Foundation Year or pre-sessional course and 20 hours a week for your main degree. If you're not sure whether your work is permitted, email the Immigration Compliance and Advice team at visa@keele.ac.uk.

The University’s Careers and Employability Service has a job database to help you find flexible part-time work in the Keele area. They are also a valuable resource for developing your employability skills. You can access practical guidance and support on writing your CV, completing job applications, and preparing for interviews.

SU job vacancies are posted on our website.

Acas has a guide to what employers can and can't do when recruiting.

In particular, employers must make sure they are not discriminating against an applicant, either directly or indirectly, based on a ‘Protected Characteristic’.

The Protected Characteristics are:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Race
  • Gender reassignment
  • Marriage and civil partnership
  • pPregnancy and maternity
  • Religion or belief
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation

Acas has a useful page explaining the different ways an employer could wrongly discriminate against someone during the hiring process.

 

 

Your Rights While Working //

The national minimum wage changes every year in April and will depend on your age. The current (2022) minimums are:

Aged 23 and over: £9.50
Aged 21 to 22: £9.18
Aged 18 to 20: £6.83
Aged under 18: £4.81

You can view the latest rates on the Government's website.

The University recommends that you don't work more than 15 hours a week to ensure the job doesn't negatively impact on your course. 

Under UK working time regulations, you can’t work for more than an average of 48 hours a week unless you have a signed agreement to work for longer. You must also have either an uninterrupted 24 hours without work each week or an uninterrupted 48 hours each fortnight.

You’re  also entitled to 11 hours’ rest between working days. For example, if you finish a shift at 9 pm, you shouldn’t start your next shift before 8 am.

*If you are an international student, please see the previous question for additional visa restrictions.*

 

Breaks during the day

If you work more than six hours a day, you’re legally entitled to a minimum of one uninterrupted 20-minute rest break, however, this will be unpaid unless it is in your contract. 

You are legally entitled to a minimum of 5.6 weeks' paid holiday a year - this is usually 20 days (4 weeks) of holiday plus 8 days (1.6) of bank holidays. Your employer can choose to give you more days in your contract.

When you work part-time you will be given a proportion of the holiday entitlement, depending on how many hours you work. You can work this out using the Government website's holiday entitlement calculator.

You can go on sick leave if you're ill. Make sure you follow any processes your employer has for reporting illness - you may be asked to call or email a certain person or department to tell them you're not coming in.

 

Do I need evidence?

You should be able to self-certify for 7 days in a row without the need for medical evidence but if you're off work for longer you will need to get a 'fit note' from your doctor. Changes have been made temporarily to take the pressure off doctors during the pandemic, allowing people to self-certify for up to 28 days in a row. Please check for the current maximum.

 

Will I get paid?

You can get a minimum of £99.35 per week Statutory Sick Pay if you’re too ill to work - this amount will be proportionate if you work part-time. Your employer can choose to give you more sick pay in your contract.

To qualify for Statutory Sick Pay, you must meet the following conditions:

  • You are classed as an employee and have done some work for your employer
  • You earn an average of at least £123 per week
  • You have been ill for at least 4 days in a row (including non-working days)

If you are on a casual, short-term or zero-hours contract you can still be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay, as long as you meet the above conditions.

For more information about Statutory Sick Pay, you can visit the Government's website.

 

What happens to my holidays?

Any statutory holiday entitlement that isn't used because you were off sick should be carried over into the next leave year. If you fall ill just before or during a booked holiday, you can take it as sick leave instead.

 

Could I be fired for being off sick too long?

Employers may be able to  dismiss you if you are on long-term sick leave, but they must be careful that this isn't an unfair dismissal and that they are not discriminating against you. They need to consider whether they can make adjustments to help you return to work, e.g. more flexible hours or less stressful work, and consult with you about when you might be able to return to work and if your health will improve.

Your employer should have given you information about their grievance procedures, which you should try to follow. This would normally be in the Company Handbook, a manual, your contrract, or an online portal. If there isn't a formal procedure, you can follow the Acas Code of Practice, which sets out the standards of fairness and reasonable behaviour that both sides should follow when there is a dispute.

The information below is the most normal route that you would be expected to follow.

 

Talk to your manager

You should try to sort the problem out informally first before you take any formal action, so the first step is to talk to your manager. If you don't feel able to talk to your manager, you could instead speak to someone else who is in a position of authority. 

 

Formal grievance

If this doesn't solve the problem, or if you feel it's not possible to deal with this informally, you can start an official grievance. This would normally begin with a letter that details the problem along with any resolutions you would like. Make sure you keep a copy of everything you write. Citizens Advice has a template letter you can use, along with a checklist.

Your employer should then arrange a meeting to discuss your grievance. You have a right to bring a colleague or a trade union representative to the meeting and you should be given the opportunity to explain your case. After the meeting, your employer should write to you with the decision.

 

Appealing a grievance decision

If you don't agree with the grievance decision, you can write a letter of appeal explaining why you disagree.

You should be invited to another meeting to discuss the appeal, and (if possible) it should be handled by someone more senior than your manager. Again, you have a right to bring a colleague or a trade union representative to the meeting and you should be given the opportunity to explain your case. After the meeting, your employer should write to you with the decision.

 

Taking it further

If you're still not satisfied, you have the option to try mediation or other forms of dispute resolution. You could also potentially take your case to an employment tribunal (see below).

If you would like to try mediation, both you and your employer would need to agree to it. Mediation is where an independent, impartial person helps both sides come to a solution that is acceptable to everyone; the mediator may be from your organisation or your employer may pay for an external mediator.

Acas offers a dispute resolution service that you can read about on their website, and you must always contact them before you can take a case to the employment tribunal so they can offer you free Early Conciliation.

 

Employment tribunal

You don't have to go through a grievance process before making a claim to an employment tribunal but there is a risk you it would impact your case and could reduce any compensation award. We would therefore advise trying to resolve your problems through your employer's processes before taking your case to a tribunal. 

However, it is important to remember the deadline to make a tribunal claim is three months minus one day from the date that your issue last happened. This is the deadline even if you've been going through the grievance process, but it can be extended if you tell them you're going through Early Conciliation with Acas.  

Employment tribunals are free but you may want to pay for legal advice.

You can read more about making a claim to an employment tribunal on the Acas website and on the Government website.

Acas has a lot of information about dismissal processes, including what should happen, how to challenge your employer, and template letters. You can also contact them for impartial advice and they provide a dispute resolution service.

Unfortunately, in most circumstances there's not much you can do as many students don't work for their employer for long enough to use certain legal arguments.

You can try appealing against your dismissal through your employers official processes, and if you want to take it further you might be able to make a claim to an employment tribunal if you've worked there long enough. If you are a member of a trade union we would advise speaking to them or you can look into legal advice.

You can read more about making a claim to an employment tribunal on the Acas website and on the Government website.

Some of the main ways to challenge a dismissal are:

 

Wrongful Dismissal

Wrongful dismissal is where an employer breaks the terms of your employment contract and doesn't follow proper processes, for example if they dismissed you without giving you the proper notice.

 

Unfair Dismissal

This can only be claimed if you worked for your employer for at least two years.

You might be able to claim unfair dismissal if you lost your job for an unfair reason (see the list below), or if you were given a false or unfair reason, or your if employer acted unreasonably in the process.

It is automatically unfair if you were dismissed for any of these reasons:

  • Pregnancy or maternity
  • Family, including wanting parental leave or time off for dependants
  • Making a flexible working request
  • Acting as an employee representative
  • Acting as a trade union representative
  • Acting as an occupational pension scheme trustee
  • Joining or not joining a trade union
  • Being a part-time or fixed-term employee
  • Asking for your legal rights, such as the Working Time Regulations, annual leave and the National Minimum Wage
  • Whistleblowing
  • Doing jury service
  • Being forced to retire
  • Taking action (or proposing action) over a health and safety issue
  • Taking part in industrial action - if you're dismissed in the first 12-week period from the day the industrial action starts or if it has lasted longer than 12 weeks and your employer didn't take reasonable steps to resolve the dispute.

Please note if you are disabled and you cannot do your job because there are no reasonable adjustments that can be made, the dismissal may be fair. However, they would need to make sure they didn't breach the Equality Act.

You can read more about unfair dismissal on the Acas website.

 

Constructive Dismissal

This can only be claimed if you worked for your employer for at least two years.

If you felt you had no choice but to resign because of something your employer has done, you might be able to claim for 'constructive dismissal'. 

Examples could include:

  • Regularly not being paid the agreed amount without a good reason
  • Being bullied or discriminated against
  • Raising a grievance that the employer refuses to look into
  • Making unreasonable changes to working patterns or place of work without agreement

This type of claim can be difficult to win at an employment tribunal. It's important to try to sort out any issues with your employer first by raising a problem informally or raising a formal grievance.