Contracts and Internships
Going to University is often the first experience of living away from family, having to manage your own finances and source your own income. Fortunately for some, the local government may offer student funding to support you with the cost of tuition fees and living arrangements. However, if this does not cover the cost of your financial expenditures, you may need to consider securing paid work to further enhance your student experience.
There is an expectation that students will contribute to their own financial security whilst at University. This could include financial support from your family, savings from employment prior to your studies, through part-time work.
Please note, if you have taken the appropriate measures to source financial support whilst at University, and find that you are unable to cover your essential living costs, we understand that you may need some financial help. Find out more about emergency funding options here.
Additionally, although money can be a leading cause of concern, it is important that you are able to prioritise your studies above paid work throughout your degree. Work commitments are rarely considered as extenuating circumstances. If you feel that your paid work is impeding on your studies, we would advise you to speak to your employer and your personal tutor if you are struggling to manage your time. You may also want to check out our tips for a good work-life-study balance.
If you are undertaking paid work alongside your studies, you should be offered a contract of employment. A contract of employment is an agreement between an employer and employee and is the basis of the employment relationship. It is important that you read your employment contract carefully so that you are fully aware of the commitment you are making, and the requirements of the role, prior to starting the position.
Employment contracts do not need to be in writing to be legally valid, but it is better if they are. Usually, you will receive a written statement of the main terms and conditions of the contract within two months of starting work. By starting work, you demonstrate that you accept the offer of employment, and the terms and conditions of the contract.
Your written statement should include details of pay, holidays and working hours. If you or your employer wants to vary the terms that have been specified in your contract, you or they can only do so with the agreement of both parties.
Sometimes it will state in your contract that your employer has the right to change some of the terms of your employment to suit business needs. This is something to keep an eye out for when reading your contract. Your contractual terms and conditions cannot override the legal minimum set out in law. Remember, it’s essential to read your contract carefully.
Zero-hours contracts often get pretty bad press. They’ve been called exploitative and unfair, and there are campaigns for them to be banned entirely. It’s easy to see why; while you have no obligation to accept the shifts you’re offered under a zero-hours contract, your employer doesn’t have to offer you any work either.
Zero-hours contracts also mean that employers can have people working the equivalent of full-time hours, without being bound by law to offer them some of the benefits that should come with it. For example, employers don’t have to offer sick pay and there is often a shorter notice period (or none at all). Maternity leave and holiday pay are often accrued based on the number of hours you work, so it might take zero-hours workers longer to build up the same holiday or maternity leave as their colleagues. For people who have families to support and mortgages to pay, a zero-hours contract with an irresponsible employer can be a nightmare.
However, for students who are looking for flexible working hours, a zero-hours contract could be beneficial. This is because you don’t have to accept the shifts you are offered, and therefore enables you to manage your employment in a way that it does not encroach on your University studies. That’s great as long as your employer understands that you won’t have the same availability all year round. This kind of arrangement can get you some extra cash without affecting your studies. In the same way that you can reduce your workload during busy periods, you can also increase it during quiet ones. But, as mentioned above, you may find that there are very few shifts available.
Outside term-time or after exams are over, you could (in theory) work the equivalent of full-time hours if they’re available. Of course, as with any job, you should always read your contract carefully and make sure you know your rights. On zero-hours, you’re still entitled to minimum wage, rest breaks, and protection from discrimination.
Work Experience and Internships
Whilst not essential, getting work experience can considerably enhance your chances of securing a graduate job. Many students and graduates do internships to explore a profession that interests them and to get practical experience for their CVs. It may also increase their chances of a graduate job with that employer, especially if it is a big organisation that notoriously recruits a lot of graduates.
If you are considering getting an Internship to support your studies vocationally and financially, be weary that many internships are paid, but unpaid internships are still offered. Over the past couple of years there are calls for the law in this area to be tightened, but it is important that you know whether your hours are going to paid or unpaid before you commit to the position.
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