Part time work is now a financial necessity for most students during their studies – NUS research has shown that 90% of students work during holidays and between 40-70% during term time. What are your rights as a part time worker?

In general:

The basic rule is that part time workers should be treated on an equal basis with their full-time counterparts unless the employer has a valid operational reason why this cannot happen. This means that part-timers should:

  • be covered by the minimum wage in the same way (see below),
  • have an equivalent entitlement to paid holiday (on a pro-rata basis),
  • enjoy the same protection against unfair dismissal (the employee will usually have to have worked for the same employer for one year),
  • benefit from the same right to statutory redundancy pay (if the employee has worked for the same employer for two years).

It’s impossible to cover all the potential legal issues around part-time work in this article and employment rights can be complicated, so if you are experiencing specific problems in your work (for example if you are facing dismissal or threats of disciplinary action, or you are experiencing harassment) please see the Student Advice Centre web pages or contact us for detailed advice.

In the meantime, have a look at the following list of frequently asked questions:

How much is the National Minimum Wage?

It depends on your age; the 18-21 rate is £4.77 per hour while the 22-&-over rate is £5.73 per hour. Some unscrupulous employers may still try to get away with paying you less. There’s a complicated calculation to work it out but if you think you’re not getting NMW , get help by calling the National Minimum Wage helpline on 0845 6000 678.

Will I get a pay slip?

Yes, virtually all employees are entitled to one. It should contain certain details like deductions for tax and national insurance and your net pay after tax. You should also get a P60 at the end of the tax year, or a P45 when you leave a job with your total earnings.

Can an employer make deductions from my wages?

Usually only in certain circumstances; for example tax and national insurance contributions, deductions required under a court order, or deductions for which you have given verbal/written permission.

If you are employed in shops, restaurants, bars or any job where you take money for a service/product then the employer can also make deductions for till/stock shortages if they follow special rules :

  • they must make the deductions within a year of the shortage coming to light
  • they must explain the reason for deduction in writing
  • they can only deduct a maximum of 10% of wages due from each payslip

Do students have to pay tax ?

Students are not automatically exempt- A single person can earn up to £6,035 for the 08/09 tax year without having to pay tax, but once you earn above this amount you’ll have to start paying like everyone else. Sometimes employers charge you at an emergency tax rate, and this may happen if you have more than one part time job. If by the end of the tax year ( April) you haven’t earned more than your allowance, you can apply for a tax rebate.

What if I work cash in hand?

It’s tempting to get the hard cash straight in your pocket , but your rights could be jeopardised if your employer doesn’t pay tax and national insurance and if the taxman finds out, both you and the employer could be prosecuted.

Will I get holiday/sick pay?

Under employment regulations even part time workers are entitled to holiday pay. Full time workers are allowed a minimum of 4.8 weeks per year (rising to 5.6 weeks from April 2009 . Part time workers get this allowance pro rata, so if you work 3 days pw you are entitled to 13.2 days paid holiday per year . Obviously if you have a nice, generous employer you may get more, but this is the legal minimum.

To work out your minimum entitlement check out the calculators on www.berr.gov.uk or www.businesslink.gov.uk

For sick pay- check your contract or contact us for advice.

I’m an agency worker- are the rules different?

Agency workers should still be entitled to holiday pay like everyone else, but sick pay is more complicated. If you are not working on the day you fall sick you won’t be paid, plus you need to be sick for 4 consecutive days and pay enough national insurance contributions. If you think your agency are breaking the rules and not paying you your sick pay entitlement, you can contact the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate on 0845 9555105.

I want to leave my job- how much notice should I give?

Generally if you’ve worked for at least 1 month you should give a weeks notice , but check your contract as you may be obliged to give longer.

How much notice should my employer give me?

As a legal minimum, if you’ve worked for the employer for 1 month – 2 years then you will be entitled to at least 1 week’s notice. If you’ve worked 2 years plus then you will be entitled to an extra week for every year of service. In addition, it is worth checking your contract of employment as this may entitle you to longer.

What if I am international student?

There are specific issues for international students who work. For example you can only work a certain amount of hours under immigration rules, and will be liable to deportation if you exceed those levels (usually 20 hours pw in term time and 40 hours in vacations). If you haven’t worked in this country before there can sometimes be problems obtaining a National insurance number and/ or convincing a potential employer that you are allowed to work at all!

Check out the information at www.ukcisa.org.uk for helpful guidance notes on working in the UK.

If you have a serious dispute with your employer and you want to take it to appeal ( i.e employment tribunal) there is often a 3 month deadline to submit a claim. Don’t miss out , if you have problems at work seek advice urgently!

Further information:

www.worksmart.org.uk – the TUC’s ‘one-stop shop’ employment advice website

ACAS telephone helpline 08457 47 47 47

Student Advice Centre

1st Floor Falmer House

T: 01273 –877038

advice@ussu.sussex.ac.uk

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