Can I Get Paid For Work Experience? Employment

With work experience being more and more coveted by employers, it’s never been more important to understand the opportunities out there. In fact, according to UCAS, two thirds of potential employers are looking for graduates that have relevant work experience as it helps them to develop general business awareness and adjust quickly. When looking for work experience, it’s likely that you will come across a variety of different types that can often seem confusing. As a result, we’ve put together the following guide to help.

What is the Difference Between Work Experience and an Internship?

The truth is, there’s not much difference between the two. In fact, according to the government’s website, an internship is a form of work experience. When people refer to work experience, they are often referring to a period of time where you spend time learning what it is like to work at a company and try your hand at different tasks. There are also placements where you may spend your time shadowing an employee and learning from their experience.

However, when talking about an internship, this tends to be perceived as an experience that lasts a little longer than a couple of weeks. Instead these tend to run for months, or even a year. As a result, internships are often what is associated with courses that have a sandwich year or graduates that need experience in a certain industry. Due to these associations and their lengths, internships are also seen to appeal to those with a higher level of qualification than other types of work experience.

Can I Get Paid For Work Experience?

This really depends on the type of agreement that you enter into and whether this agreement qualifies you for minimum wage. Some forms of work experience or internships can be advertised as unpaid work or expenses online. However, organisations that are offering these types of positions must check to see whether you’re a volunteer for minimum wage purposes or if an exemption means you don’t need to be paid.

If you are not a genuine volunteer and you don’t fall into any of the exemptions that we’ll discuss shortly, then you may be eligible for minimum wage.

What Are the Exemptions?

In order that companies don’t take advantage of those needing experience, the government has laid out guidelines for those offering work experience placements. Amongst these guidelines are a set of exemptions where if they apply, you are not entitled to minimum wage. Therefore, if any of the following applies, you will be expected to carry out your placement for free:

  • If you’re a student working as a required part of a UK based further or higher education course and the placement doesn’t exceed one year. This doesn’t apply to other jobs unrelated to your course such as those that may help finance studies or a gap year.
  • If you’re of compulsory school age and undertaking work experience. If you have stayed in full-time or part-time education beyond compulsory school age, you may still be entitled to minimum wage unless the placement is required as part of your studies.
  • If you’re a participant in a government scheme or programme that provides training, work experience, temporary work or help in seeking and obtaining work.
  • If you’re a participant in an EU Lifelong Learning Programme such as Leonardo da Vinci, European Community Youth in Action, Erasmus, or Comenius
  • If your placement doesn’t involve any work being performed e.g. work shadowing.

Am I a Volunteer?

As we’ve already touched on, voluntary workers are also exempt from the minimum wage as long as both of the following factors apply:

  • They are doing a placement with a charity, volunteer organisation, associated fund-raising body or statutory body
  • They receive no monetary payments and only limited and specified expenses and benefits

It’s important to recognise whether you are a true volunteer as there are a number of occasions where you may actually be entitled to minimum wage. When defining what counts as a volunteer, you would need to have an arrangement with an organisation that doesn’t entitle you to a financial reward or benefit for the kind of work that you’re performing. Generally, you should also not have to turn up for work if you don’t want to, although your colleagues may expect you to work a regular pattern. It must also not be possible for you to be dismissed, sued for breach of contract or have payments and rewards threatened when you fail to work.

Is Volunteering and Unpaid Work Experience Worth it?

If it is that you fall into one of the exemption groups preventing you from minimum wage, that doesn’t mean that you still shouldn’t pursue work experience. Work experience has a wide variety of benefits that go beyond getting paid, as can be seen in our ‘why is work experience important’ guide. Volunteering and taking unpaid opportunities can help you to network, figure out what career path you wish to follow and if you’re a student, assist you with your studies.

By taking on any kind of work experience, you will be automatically bolstering your CV and giving yourself the best chance of standing out from other applicants and hitting the ground running in a new job. However, before agreeing to any placements, it’s important to understand whether you can afford to carry it out. Things like travel can add up pretty quickly and so you may also wish to apply for a part-time job to help cover these expenses.

Contact Us For Help Finding Work Experience

Here at Building Better Opportunities, we help people across Stafford and South Staffordshire develop their skills and improve their career prospects. If you’ve read through this and would like advice on anything from whether you should be getting paid for work experience, or how to apply, please contact us. Our friendly and experienced team will be happy to help in any way they can.

More information on paid and unpaid work experience can be found on the government website. Alternatively, our knowledge hub is jam packed with FAQs and advice. In order to speak to a member of our team, you can either give us a call on 01902 696 228 or pop into one of our drop-in sessions. Thanks to our partnerships across the region, we are well equipped to help you access contacts that can help you in pursuing your career.