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Payment rights and safety as a student, an intern and employee

UCL Careers and our parent body The Careers Group, University of London make every effort to ensure all information on our job sites, emails and other publications is up-to-date and accurate.  Guidelines about identifying potential job scams and what to do if you're unsure are provided by The Careers Group.

If you have any concerns about the legitimacy of an opportunity that appears on our job sites or that has been emailed to you by UCL Careers, please do contact us before applying.

Please note, if you submit an application to UCL Careers for a vacancy that is listed on myUCLCareers through one of our shortlisting services, your application will only be passed on to the employer if it is shortlisted, and you should then expect to be contacted by them directly.

Contracts and Pay
For general information about contracts and pay see our series of UCL Careers Explains blogs. The first blog covers information about contracts and Starting a new role. Other blogs in this ongoing series will cover National Insurance and issues with payment.

Student

Please be aware that some organisations may try to defraud students by targeting you directly claiming to offer work or other opportunities in an attempt to gather personal data and/or bank details.

Where these are received, please be aware that:

  • No employers have direct access to the personal data stored on your myUCLCareers account profile and we also wouldn't pass on any contact details stored there to external organisations.
  • Employers are able to post vacancies through the myUCLCareers job site and details of these can be automatically emailed to you but, these vacancy updates will all be sent from careers@ucl.ac.uk and will be based on your myUCLCareers profile settings so you shouldn't receive anything careers related that you're not expecting.
  • If job-related emails are received from any other source, particularly ones which ask you to reply with additional information about yourself or provide bank details or pay money to the sender, these are highly likely to be spam or phishing emails. UCL ISD provide useful guidelines on this topic - find out more about the Information Security Awareness course.
  • Reporting spam. The guidelines above also include information about how to report phishing emails so we would encourage you to flag the details via the appropriate channels if you've been targeted - particularly in cases where senders are trying to scam students out money.
  • You should also be aware that your UCL email address is made publicly available via the UCL directory - again, guidelines on how this directory works are provided by ISD so they should be the first point of contact if you have concerns about the security of your email account.
Intern

It is important that you satisfy yourself that the internship will give you a good learning opportunity, that it is safe and that there is adequate insurance in place to cover you should any problems occur. We advise you to make sure you have details about the internship/placement in writing from the host organisation and you review the legitimacy of the internship, including payment, before you start it by making sure you have the following information:

1. Does the internship comply with National Minimum Wage legislation, (or the equivalent for anything that is international)? If it does not, you need to think about whether you want to go on an internship where you may not get paid. Even if the organisation says that the internship will be paid it is important that the amount of payment and hours that you are expected to work are in writing so that if there are issues with payment once you have started your internship, you have written evidence of what you expected. Unpaid internships are generally illegal in the UK but it will depend on whether you are considered a “worker”. Also there are different rules for registered charities. See about intern payment rights at https://www.gov.uk/employment-rights-for-interns . You should not be asked to sign a contract where payment is not covered or that states that it will be an unpaid internship.

2. If you are undertaking an internship where you will be expected to generate intellectual property (eg. research and development roles) you are likely to need to give up any rights to it if you have a contract. We recommend you take legal advice if you are unsure about what this means or if there are any other areas of the contract that you are not sure of.

3. Does the host company have in force a current Health and Safety policy (or the equivalent for anything that is international), which will cover you during the internship? If not, how will they keep you safe in the work environment?

4. Does the host company have current Employee's and Public liability insurance policies, (or the equivalent for anything that is within a government department or international), which the student will be covered by during the internship? If not, you will be working with no insurance cover. Most employers in the UK are required to hold Employers Liability insurance as it is a legal requirement and there is an agreement among the UK insurance industry that work experience persons will be regarded as employees by all UK insurers and covered by these liability policies. You might want to try to persuade the organisation to cover you for liability as the cost of this is usually very little. If an organisation does not want to cover you may want to reconsider whether you want to undertake this opportunity as there are many out there where this would not be the case.

5. Will you have a supervisor in the organisation who you can go to for guidance and support during the internship? If not, what would you do if you needed help?

For internships that are not part of an academic programme, there will be no agreement between UCL, the host organisation and yourself unless you know of any separate arrangements that have been made on your behalf by your department.

The employment rights of interns are on the UK Government website at http://www.gov.uk/employment-rights-for-interns.

Unless you can satisfy yourself that the internship complies with the law, and that you will be safe and supported during the internship we would advise you to find a different one where you will be.

Worker/Employee

Once you are offered a job and start working for a company or organisation you will usually be classed as a worker or an employee providing you are not a volunteer or self-employed.  You should have a contract (even if it is just an email) stating the terms of your employment which will help to distinguish whether you are a worker or an employee. It is important that you know what you are being classified as so that you understand your employment rights. According to the employment status pages of the UK Government website:

Someone is likely to be a worker if most of these apply:

  • they occasionally do work for a specific business
  • the business doesn’t have to offer them work and they don’t have to accept it - they only work when they want to. their contract with the business uses terms like ‘casual’, ‘freelance’, ‘zero hours’, ‘as required’ or something similar
  • they had to agree with the business’s terms and conditions to get work - either verbally or in writing
  • they are under the supervision or control of a manager or director
  • they can’t send someone else to do their work
  • the business deducts tax and National Insurance contributions from their wages
  • the business provides materials, tools or equipment they need to do the work

Workers are entitled to:

Workers usually aren’t entitled to:

Employees

Someone who works for a business is probably an employee if most of the following are true:

  • they’re required to work regularly unless they’re on leave, for example holiday, sick leave or maternity leave
  • they’re required to do a minimum number of hours and expect to be paid for time worked
  • a manager or supervisor is responsible for their workload, saying when a piece of work should be finished and how it should be done
  • they can’t send someone else to do their work
  • the business deducts tax and National Insurance contributions from their wages they get paid holiday
  • they’re entitled to contractual or Statutory Sick Pay, and maternity or paternity pay
  • they can join the business’s pension scheme
  • the business’s disciplinary and grievance procedures apply to them
  • they work at the business’s premises or at an address specified by the business
  • their contract sets out redundancy procedures
  • the business provides the materials, tools and equipment for their work
  • they only work for the business or if they do have another job, it’s completely different from their work for the business
  • their contract, statement of terms and conditions or offer letter (which can be described as an ‘employment contract’) uses terms like ‘employer’ and ‘employee’

Employees are workers and their rights include all the rights of a worker. However, an employee has extra employment rights and responsibilities that don’t apply to workers. These extra rights include:

Some of these rights require a minimum length of continuous employment before an employee qualifies for them
An employment contract may state how long this qualification period is.