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Work experience guide for employers

 Find out how offering work experience can help your business grow, plus we answer your frequently asked work experience questions to ensure you stay on the right side of the law.

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Could offering work experience benefit your business?

Work experience is the term commonly used to refer to a short period of work undertaken by students in their final years of compulsory or further education. It can help a young person to get some experience of working life, and perhaps a taste of their chosen career.

School-led work experience is usually co-ordinated by a dedicated member of staff at a school or college. However, similar schemes may be run for job seekers who aren’t in education via Jobcentre Plus. Longer placements are known as internships, traineeships and apprenticeships.   

Experience of the real world of work is an essential aspect of a young person's transition from education to employment. Research from City & Guilds illustrated the importance of employer engagement to young people, with 88% of 16-18 years olds rating employer visits to schools as the most useful form of employment advice.

Business benefits of work experience

  • Fill temporary gaps in your workforce or get cover during busy periods
  • It's cost-effective. In many cases it won’t cost you a thing!
  • Help to up skill a new generation of workers. Many small businesses struggle to find young employees with even basic work skills and, similarly, young unemployed people find a lack of understanding of the working world a significant barrier to finding a job. Work experience can benefit both parties.
  • Find potential members of staff. You could treat the placement as a risk-free trial period in which to establish whether the participant would be a suitable employee.
  • Get new ideas and up to date skills into your business. Young people who want to work will be eager to learn new skills that prepare them for their future employment, so they may be more flexible and willing to get involved. They may also have great social media or IT skills missing from your organisation.

If you offer work experience placements, you should have a clear idea in mind of what the young person will do so you make the most of their time with your company. Neither party will get the best out of the experience if they simply observe others working.

If the young person wants to enter your industry sector in the future, make the most of this passion and enthusiasm by giving them valuable and practical experience of what the work involves.

Work experience FAQs

Do my staff need a DBS check for work experience?

No. It is not necessary for those staff who will be working alongside young people while on work experience to undergo a DBS check, but you should consider a check for someone who has a designated responsibility for supervising a placement, particularly if they are under 16, vulnerable, or the supervisor will spend a substantial amount of time alone with them.

What are my health and safety responsibilities for work experience placements?

You have a legal obligation to provide students on work experience with exactly the same health and safety and welfare protection you provide to your own employees. For a summary of what this entails, view our health and safety essentials guide.

Should an incident occur while you have a student on work experience from a school, you must report it to the head teacher or work experience co-ordinator and the young person’s home if you have the telephone number.

Could a work experience placement affect my insurance?

Depending on your policy, you must inform your insurance company that you intend to take on a work experience placement. Forum members should call our helpline on 0845 130 1722 in the first instance. Where they will be travelling in a vehicle for the purposes of work, your vehicle insurance must cover them.

Do young people on placement have to work set hours?

The Working Time Regulations 1998 apply to people on work experience. However, the number and pattern of hours worked is normally agreed by the employee, school or job centre and the person being placed. If possible, normal hours should be worked, but young people (under 18) are not allowed to work longer than eight hours per day and 40 hours per week.

Do I have to pay work experience staff?

If the young person is under the minimum school leaving age, there is no entitlement to the national minimum wage and they will not pay tax or NI contributions.

With work experience placements through the Department for Work and Pensions and JobCentre Plus, the government continue to pay their benefits so you don’t have to pay them. In both cases, you can assist with travelling or lunch costs if you wish.

To find out more about work experience and the options available to you, call our helpline now on 0845 130 1722.

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