Full-time student, part-time worker? Know your employment rights

From wages and tax to work permits and visas, we explain the employment rights and paperwork that will make your part-time job a beneficial and hassle-free experience.
Full-time student, part-time worker? Know your employment rights
Make sure you know your employment rights and what practicalities you need to deal with

Taking on a part-time job while studying at university can boost your bank balance and your skills in the workplace. But to get the most out of the experience (and keep the taxman happy), make sure you know your employment rights and what practicalities you need to deal with.

Part-time workers have full-time rights

Students who work part-time are legally entitled to be treated the same as comparable full-time workers; that is, workers on the same type of contract with the same employer. This is a right you enjoy from day one of your employment.

The National Minimum Wage

The national minimum wage rates are:

  • for workers aged 21 and over – £6.31 per hour
  • for workers aged 18 to 20 – £5.03 per hour
  • for workers aged 16 to 17, who are above school leaving age, but under 18 – £3.72 per hour
  • for apprentices aged under 19, or 19 and over and in the first year of their apprenticeship – £2.68 per hour

The Working Time Regulations

As a part-time worker you are entitled to:

  • an in-work rest break if the working day is longer than six hours
  • a limit of an average 48-hour working week (you can agree with your employer to work longer hours – this agreement must be in writing and signed by you)
  • a minimum of 5.6 weeks’ paid holiday per year pro rata – so 5.6 times your weekly working hours.

Students are not exempt from tax

University students pay tax and national insurance just as other workers do, but you don’t pay tax on all your earnings. Student grants, student loans, housing benefits, and most scholarships and research awards are not taxed. The standard personal allowance for a single person in the tax year 2013–2014 is £9,440. If you earn less than this you will not need to pay income tax.

If you are planning to work in your vacations only and you know your income will not exceed the personal allowance you can ask to sign a P38 to stop tax being deducted or reclaim the money at the end of the tax year.

Can international students work part time?

If your student immigration permission allows you to take employment, you can work up to 20 hours (in some cases, up to 10 hours) a week during term-time and full-time during the holidays and on work placements.

Zero Hours contracts

A new kind of contract is being introduced across the UK which is defitintely skewed in favour of the employer. They only pay you for the hours you work, and in return you are required to be ready to work at short notice. If you are asked to sign one, be clear about when you have fixed commitments - such as lecture hours.