Full-time student, part-time worker? Know your employment rights
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.
What's the national minimum wage for students?
The minimum you can be paid (national minimum wage) is the same for students as for anyone else. National minimum wage rates are:
- for workers aged 21 to 24 – £7.05 per hour
- for workers aged 18 to 20 – £5.60 per hour
- for workers aged under 18 – £4.50 per hour
- for workers aged 25 and over – £7.50 per hour*
These rates came into force in April 2017.
The working time regulations
As a part-time worker you are entitled to:
- an interrupted in-work rest break of at least 20 minutes if the working day is longer than six hours
- a limit of an average 48-hour working week (although 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.
How much can students earn before paying tax?
University students are not exempt from tax; they pay tax and and national insurance just as other workers do. You don't pay tax on all your earnings – you will only be taxed for earnings above £11,500 (the personal tax allowance for the tax year 2017–18). If you earn less than this you will not need to pay income tax. If you pay too much tax you can claim a refund.
Student grants, student loans, housing benefits, and most scholarships and research awards are not taxed.
Can international students work part time in the UK?
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. For more information, check out our guide for international students, including visas and permits
Students and zero-hour contracts
Zero-hour contracts 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.
*This rate is the National Living Wage.
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