Employing migrant workers


Employing students

Q69 - Are non-European Economic Area students allowed to work in the UK?

Students from outside the EEA who are over the age of 16 are permitted to take some work here, providing their conditions of entry to the UK allow this, and they are given leave as a student in the UK for longer than six months.

There are strict conditions on the type of work they can take while they are studying in the UK. You can employ a student:
  • for up to 20 hours per week only during term time. (The only exception to this is where a student may have been placed with you to meet the definition of their sandwich course or internship); or
  • full-time only outside of their term time; and
  • they must still have valid leave.
A student from outside of the EEA must not:
  • engage in business; or
  • engage in self-employment; or
  • provide services as a professional sportsperson or entertainer; or
  • pursue a career by filling a permanent full-time vacancy.
The Government recognises that on some occasions it may be difficult for employers to verify an applicant's student status or otherwise. You should remember that the onus remains on the student, as it does for all your prospective employees, to demonstrate that they are able to work for you legally.

You are perfectly entitled to request extra documents to reassure yourself that the person in front of you is a student. This could include an authorised letter from their place of study confirming their status.

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Q70 - Students from outside the EEA can work for 20 hours per week during term time. How do you define term-time?

Students should be able to provide proof of the term dates for their course if required. However, there may be periods of time where a student is not expected to attend classes, but when they should be spending their time studying, writing a dissertation, or preparing for exams as part of their course. They should not be working full-time during this period.

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Q71 - How does the 20-hour rule affect non-EEA postgraduate students?

Postgraduates do not follow the normal pattern of students, and it is accepted that their course may involve research work as part of their course requirements. However, researchers who are specifically employed by an institute will require a work permit, whereas junior Research Fellows in receipt of scholarships are essentially treated as students and are subject to restrictions on the hours that they can work.

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Q72 - What about work placements for non-EEA students as part of their course?

There are sandwich courses for students, which are courses that include a clearly defined work placement and are approved by the institution providing the course. Students subject to conditions restricting employment will be allowed to follow a sandwich course provided that:
  • the course leads to a degree or to a qualification awarded by a nationally recognised examining body, and
  • that the work placement does not extend beyond the end of their course.
There may also be opportunities for an internship - a short period of paid work, which an employer may offer a job applicant. The internship may be offered to a student on a first or higher degree course in the UK, even if the potential permanent employment is outside the UK. A student who is subject to conditions restricting employment will be allowed to undertake an internship provided that they satisfy all of the following conditions:
  • the student has not previously undertaken an internship with the employer;
  • the internship is for not longer than three months;
  • it is an established part of the employer's recruitment procedure;
  • it offers pay and conditions comparable to those for a 'resident worker' doing the same work; and
  • that it is completed within their current period of leave as a student.
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Q73 - A non-EEA national with leave to remain in the UK as a student is paid to sleep over at their place of employment. Does this count towards their 20 hours limit during term-time?

Those migrant workers who do have permission to work in the UK, are entitled to protection under the law in the same way as British citizens, and their working hours would be as specified in their employment contract.

For the purpose of the 20 hour limit during term-time, and subject to the non-EEA student having permission to work in to UK, any hours spent sleeping should be counted and in paid accordance with the National Minimum Wage Regulations 1999. Under the National Minimum Wage Regulations 1999, providing that the employment contract clearly sets out the period when the worker is permitted to sleep and that you provide suitable sleeping facilities, the worker need not include the sleeping hours in respect of the 20 hour limit, if they are not actually working.

However, if the worker has to get up and work during that period, the time spent awake and working will count as time for the purpose of the 20 hour limit, and when the minimum wage is payable. In cases where the employment contract does not clearly specify any sleeping time, however, the national minimum wage should be paid in respect of any time during the period when they are at work, or awake for the purpose of working, and that time should be counted.

You will need to see what the specific employment contract says on this point, and act accordingly, which may involve seeking legal advice where necessary.

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Q74 - Can a non-EEA student with valid leave to enter or remain in the UK defer his/her studies in order to obtain full-time work under an internship?

Students who have enrolled on a course may sometimes defer the start, or a subsequent part of a course. This may happen for a variety of reasons outside the control of the student, for example, compelling personal circumstances (e.g. an illness or an accident), or as a result of a decision made by the institution which they are attending. In all cases, there must be documentary evidence of the circumstances, and the application must also be supported by the institution.

If an individual has been granted leave to remain as a student, then they must apply to have their leave varied if they are to remain in the UK for a different purpose.

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