You must check that the arrangement you make with the young person does not make them a worker for minimum wage purposes. ‘Unpaid work’ or ‘expenses only’ is where someone gives their services free of charge in order to develop and maintain their skills.
The person will be with you to learn directly about working life and the working environment, they should not be filling a vacancy but given the opportunity to explore different employment options. For example, they may be a student working as part of a UK-based further or higher education course, participating in a government scheme, or you are a charity able to take on voluntary workers.
Design your programme for the work experience around some core principles:
- DO - Keep it to 150 hours maximum. That works out to about four weeks full time.
- DO - Build in mentoring! Students volunteering are likely in their most early experiences of work, they will be eager to learn from you.
- DO - Put elements of the arrangement in writing and agree learning objectives and record that you will pay back ‘out of pocket’ expenses.
- DO - Seek advice if you are unsure about anything. Acas provides free and confidential advice to employers, employees and their representatives on employment rights, best practice and policies.
- DON’T - Cross the line between documenting objectives and creating an employment contract by including elements such as working hours and expected outcomes. A volunteer does not have to turn up to work if they do not want to. (Rules are different if you are a charity, voluntary organisation, associated fund-raising body or statutory body.)
- DON’T - Advertise the possibility of paid work after an unpaid work experience. The promise of paid work is a form of reward for work undertaken and will attract pay for the whole time they work with you.
- DON’T - Pay over-and-above for expenses. Good on you for offering to pay, but these should be genuine out-of-pocket expenses or this may be considered work.