Work experience and employment

Work experience or work-based learning is an important part of education for employability, and is intended to give a student an idea of working life and the key skills needed within the workplace.

Every student is entitled to at least one week of work experience during their last two compulsory years at school. Pupils are encouraged to find their own placements by writing to employers or through family and friends. All students, from those taking the fewest examinations to those who will take degrees, need real knowledge of the world of work.

Benefits of work experience

The benefits of work experience include:

  • confidence building
  • understanding the world of work, eg dress code, behaviour
  • understanding relationships at work
  • development of student's health and safety awareness
  • contribution to the development of key skills in young people, eg communication, numeracy
  • increased knowledge of the opportunities and career paths available

What students do on work experience

As far as possible students should undertake real tasks to give them an idea of the work carried out by the employer. They should gain an understanding of how the company is organised and run, and of how enterprise, creativity and innovation help business growth. A programme should be organised for the student, and employers should monitor what the student has achieved. Every student should have a work experience logbook in which they can record their progress.

What parents/guardians can do

Parents/guardians can offer valuable support in finding placements. Your written consent is needed before a placement can begin and you will have information about the arrangements and will know how to contact the school if your child reports a problem to you about their placement. You will also be asked to provide medical information, which could affect the health, safety and welfare of your child while on a work placement.

Once on the placement, parents should discuss the arrangements for lunch and break periods with their child and make sure they are suitable. If a student leaves the employer's premises during lunch or break periods, no liability can be accepted by the employer or the school for any incident that may occur.

Limits on the jobs students can do

The Education Act 1996 and local byelaws place limitations on the type of work which students can experience. The school's work experience co-ordinator can give further advice on this.  

Work experience arrangements

If a school enlists the service of the local education partnership, they will carry out the necessary health and safety procedures, and negotiate the whole programme for the school with employers. This includes providing the student with a job description. Work experience organisers have a duty to assess the ability of a work experience placement provider to provide for a student's health, safety and welfare while on work experience. If a placement is deemed unsuitable by the work experience organisers the school is notified not to proceed with the placement. Employers also need to inform students of their main duties and tasks, the type of work, any associated specific risks and their control measures, and to remind the students of their responsibilities while on placement. Parents/guardians will also have to be told of these risks. 

Medical information considered when organising a placement

Each student's health should be considered before a placement is chosen; for example someone with asthma would avoid dusty places. If a student is on medication the employer must be informed. The parents will be asked to provide medical information, which may affect the safety and welfare of their son or daughter whilst on a placement.

Accidents while on work  experience   

It is the responsibility of the employer to report any accidents, incidents or dangerous occurrences that occur on site following their normal procedures for such reporting covered by the 1995 Reporting of Injuries, Diseases & Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR). The employer must report any such accidents or occurrences to the headteacher or work experience co-ordinator or the work experience organisers of the school and the student's home if a telephone number is provided.

Child protection issues

Schools should have given consideration to preparing students to deal with and report incidents that they feel uncomfortable with during their work placement. Employers should take account of child protection issues under the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000.

Insurance

The employer's insurance company must be informed of the employer's intention to take on a work experience student. Where a student will be travelling in a vehicle for the purposes of work the vehicle insurance must cover them. Where a liability can be demonstrated then:

  • injuries caused to others on the premises, others not on the premises, damage to others' property and damage to employee's property should normally be covered by the employer's public liability insurance policy
  • damage to the employer's own property should normally be covered by the employer's material damage policy
  • injuries to the student while on work experience will be covered by the employer's liability insurance policy

Contact between children and their school during the placement

The Local Education Authority (LEA) work experience scheme requires the school staff to make a visit to the employer during the placement in order to monitor and review the progress of the student.

Hours required

The working time regulations 1998 apply to students on work experience. However, the number and pattern of hours worked is normally agreed by the provider, school and student. If possible, normal hours should be worked, but students are not allowed to work outside any hours specified by legislation.

Tax and National Insurance (NI)

Students on work experience must not be paid and will not pay tax or NI contributions. Employers can assist with travelling or lunch costs if they wish.

Work experience out of the area

If a student wishes to undertake work experience out of the area then parents/guardians are responsible for making the appropriate arrangements for travel and accommodation. There could be problems with obtaining a placement suitability visit in these cases and the work experience co-ordinator should be the first point of contact if information on this is required.

Contacts at the school if there is a problem  

Each school has a work experience co-ordinator who can be contacted at any time during the work placement. Parents/guardians and employers should be given the name of the work experience co-ordinator and their contact telephone number prior to the work placement taking place.