HR Expert: Work Experience
My client is considering taking on a 15-year-old schoolchild for a 2-week work experience placement. What sort of things do they need to consider?

In light of recent calls from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) to bring back mandatory work experience, it is encouraging that your client is considering offering a work experience placement. If organised correctly this can be mutually beneficial for both parties, however, your client will need to ensure the correct provisions are in place.

Your client should note that children of compulsory school age are exempt from a number of employment rights, including the National Minimum Wage (NMW). This means there is no obligation to pay them whilst they are on work-experience and any offer of salary will merely be a voluntary gesture of goodwill on your client’s behalf.

It is also generally up for your client to decide their own specific rules around working time for the schoolchild during their placement. However, as they will be 15 years of age they should not be asked to work more than 8 hours per day or 40 hours each week according to guidance from the Department of Education.

To ensure your client and the child get the most out of the placement it will be essential to plan ahead and devise tasks that will be engaging and rewarding. They should keep in mind that part of the idea behind the placement is to give the child an opportunity to learn about the working world first hand.

It may be a good idea for them to shadow a senior employee as they go about their day-to-day roles, and contribute where possible, rather than asking them to carry out tasks of little value. Anyone trusted to supervise or work alongside a child in this way, will not need to undergo disclosure and barring checks as they are unlikely to be taking part in unsupervised ‘regulated activity’.

Your client should also appreciate the added health and safety risks that may come with having a work experience participant on site and ensure they carry out a risk assessment to mitigate any potential hazards ahead of time.

At the end of the placement, your client may find it useful to carry out an exit interview with the child and ask them for their feedback. This will give them an opportunity to learn what went well and what didn’t, which will be important in helping your client develop their approach to any future work experience placements.

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