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Cost of Living

As your Students’ Union, we recognise the huge impact of the cost of living crisis on our students, and can assure you that we’re working hard to find ways to respond. We are working closely with the University to explore ways to minimise course and transport costs, as well as ways in which we can use the campus to alleviate the costs students face from heating and water bills.

We have some information and advice which may be of use straight away, so please use the tabs below to navigate the support we have made available in these challenging times. Further sections will continue to be added over the weeks and months ahead.

Learn more about student funding updates here.

Know your employment rights

A guide for students

Working while studying can be stressful so, to help you better understand your rights as a part-time worker, we have compiled some answers to common employment questions. Hopefully, these should provide you with valuable information to help improve your experience as a part-time worker.

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1. What are my rights as a student part-time worker?

Your employer must treat you the same as a comparable full-time worker, which means you are entitled to the same rate of pay, benefits, holidays, union membership and promotional opportunities as other employees in the organisation (although pay and benefits can be pro rata proportioned to the number of hours you work). You are entitled to a minimum of 5.6 weeks of paid holiday per year pro rata (which is 5.6 times your weekly hours).

2. What is the minimum my employer can pay a student in the UK?

The national minimum wage for employees is the same for all employees (students and non-students). The national minimum wages change every April, and rates are currently being reviewed for 2023. The national minimum wage rates for April 2022 are:

  • For those aged 23 and over - £9.50ph (this is also known as the national living wage)
  • For those aged 21 to 22 - £9.18ph
  • For those 18 to 20 - £6.83ph
  • For those aged under 18 - £4.81ph

3. How many hours can I work as a student (home and international)

Home students International students

No limit but most universities advise students not to work more than 20hrs per week as this can negatively affect their studies.

Undergraduate

With a Tier 4 visa you can work a maximum of 20 hours per week during term time, and full-time during holidays (Christmas, Easter and summer breaks).

Postgraduate Taught

With a tier 4 visa you can work a maximum of 20 hours per week, including during the summer break. You cannot work full-time until your course has officially ended.

Postgraduate Research

With a Tier 4 Visa you can work a maximum of 20 hours per week. You don’t get holidays, and would have to take annual leave if you want to work more hours. This would have to be agreed by your supervisor.

4. What is a zero-hour contract?

Also known as casual contracts, zero-hour contracts only pay for the hours you work. There is no obligation on the employer to give you a set number of hours to work each week, and there is no obligation on you to agree the hours being offered. Employers cannot insist you work exclusively for them. This means you can work for several employers under a zero-hour contract. Usually, employers use zero-hour contacts to ensure they have staff available to work at short notice.

If you are a zero-hour worker, you are entitled to the same minimum wage and working time regulations as other employees. You will pay tax as you earn, in the same way other employees do. Your employer should give you a contract on day one detailing your pay (including sick pay) and leave entitlement.

5. Are students entitled to a break at work?

If you work more than 6 hours per day, you are entitled to one 20 minute undisturbed break. Your employer can tell you when to take your break, and it should be at some point during your working hours – not at the start or end of the day. You are entitled to take your break away from your desk/workspace, and you do not need to be paid. This depends on what your contract says.

You are also entitled an 11 hour rest between working days. This means that if you finish a shift at 5pm, your next shift should not start before 4am the next day. You are also entitled to an uninterrupted 24 hour period without work each week, or 48 hours per fortnight.

You can work more than an average of 48 hours per week unless you sign an agreement with your employer to ‘opt out of working time regulations’.

6. Do students pay tax?

Yes, students are required to pay tax. Like everyone else working, you are required to pay national insurance and income tax, even as a part-time worker. You will only pay income tax if you have earnt more than £1042 per month on average, and national insurance if you earn more than £192 per week. For the tax year, you will be taxed on a ‘pay as you earn’ (PAYE) basis on earnings over your personal tax allowance (£12,500 per year until April 2023). You are not taxed on student grants, student loans, most scholarships, awards and housing benefit.

You will need to pay national insurance and income tax if you are a UK national working overseas for a UK company. If you work for an overseas employer, you will not need to pay national insurance, but may need to pay local taxes instead.

If you have paid too much tax, you can claim a refund from HMRC.

7. Can an employer withhold my wages?

There are some circumstances where employers withholding wages is legal. They are quite specific circumstances, however, and deductions are not normally allowed for anything relating to performance or conduct.

Employers can withhold wages in the following circumstances:

  • When it is required or allowed by law (National Insurance, income tax or student loan repayments, etc.)
  • Agreements based on individual circumstances (provided it is legally compliant)
  • Written permission is contained in the contract (provided it is legally compliant)
  • There is a statutory payment for a public authority
  • The employee/worker has not worked because of taking part in a strike or industrial action
  • There has been an earlier overpayment of wages or expenses
  • It is the result of a court order

A deduction cannot normally reduce your pay below the National Minimum Wage (NMW) even if you and the employer agree to it. The only times your pay can dip below NMW is:

  • From tax or national insurance
  • There is something the employee is liable for (a shortfall in a till)
  • Repayment of a loan or an advance of wages
  • Repayment of accidental overpayment
  • You are provided with accommodation by the employer
  • Money is for employee personal use (union subscriptions or pension contributions).
7a. Can an employer withhold my wages if I am dismissed?

Even if you are dismissed without notice by an employer for gross misconduct, they still need to pay you under employment law.

This entitles an employee to full payment up to the last day of employment, or the ‘effective date of termination’ to give this its legal name. This should be shown in your dismissal letter and is the last date for payment.

The employer should make clear the calculation of your final payment. For example, it should be clear in the payslip what each payment or deduction is for.

You may be owed additional payment to your base salary for the following factors:

If the employer ends your employment, and you owe them money, the employer no longer has the contractual right to remove any money from your wages. If the employer withholds pay in these circumstances, you could lodge an unlawful deduction claim against them.

7b. Can an employer withhold pay for mistakes?

Deduction for job performance and mistakes, unless you have an incentive-based contract, are unlawful.

Deductions should only usually occur in retail environments when there has been a shortfall in till calculations. As mentioned previously, if you as an employee are liable for something then the employer can make a deduction.

However, the employer cannot deduct the total amount; they can only remove up to 10% of the gross pay per pay period until the amount is paid back.

7c. Can an employer withhold pay if I quit without notice?

Even if you leave employment without working your notice period, you are still entitled to any money owed for untaken holiday leave. This includes outstanding overtime, commission or bonuses and pension contributions up to the termination date. The employer should uphold these factors regardless of whether you work your notice as they are in the terms of employment.

An employer withholding pay after you quit would normally count as wage theft in the UK. Employment law still entitles you to payment, just only pay for work you have done up to that point.

The employer may be able to make a court claim against you if they end up with extra costs owing to you not working your notice. This does not entitle them to withhold wages by law - they would need to claim it back through the court.

7d. What can I do if my employer hasn't paid me?

In the first instance speak to your employer explaining where you think the error has occurred. Your employer should rectify the error and explain any deductions. If a dispute occurs regarding your wages, you can challenge them as follows:

Step 1: Speak to your trade union

If you are in a trade union, they might be able to negotiate with your employer for you. If you are not in a union, find out if there is one at your workplace that you can join. You might find details in your staff handbook, intranet or on notice boards at work.

Step 2: Raise a grievance

Check if your employer has a formal grievance procedure you can use. Even if they have not, you can still raise a grievance - for example by writing a letter. Explain why you think you have not been paid enough and include copies of any evidence.

Step 3: Notify ACAS

If your grievance does not get the result you want, you can take your employer to a tribunal. You will have to notify ACAS first.

ACAS is an organisation that provides independent support to help sort out employment disputes. They will see if your employer will agree to a process called ‘early conciliation' - a way to resolve disputes without going to a tribunal.

The quickest way to start is to fill in the early concilliation form on the ACAS website. Or you can call the ACAS early conciliation team on 0300 123 1122.

Step 4: Take your employer to a tribunal

Your last resort is to take your employer to a tribunal. Think carefully before you apply to a tribunal - it could be stressful and if you pay for legal advice or representation, it could be expensive.

The deadline for applying to the tribunal is 3 months less a day from when you should have been paid the money. You need to notify ACAS before the deadline ends and get an early conciliation certificate from them. You will need the certificate to apply to the tribunal.

You can only apply to a tribunal if you are an employee or worker. Check your employment status if either:

  • You are not sure if you are an employee or worker
  • Your employer says you are self-employed and you think they are wrong

If you are self-employed or you have missed the tribunal deadline, you can usually claim for unpaid wages at a small claims court instead. You can decide whether to make a small claim.

8. Where can I get more advice on employment rights?

You can get more advice from your Students' Union Advice Centre or your local Citizens Advice Bureau, and there is information on the ACAS website.

Offers

We recognise that everyone is feeling the pinch of the cost-of-living crisis, so here are some of the money-saving offers available in our Outlets.

Bread Oven

Our aim at The Bread Oven is to offer the freshest, tastiest and best value lunch on campus, served by the smiliest, friendliest staff in the nicest, brightest surroundings we can!

Meal deals - Buy a sandwich or salad with a drink and snack and save 50p off total cost

Loyalty cards - Buy 8 meal deals and the 9th one is on us

Baked Potatoes - served daily with a choice of 16 fillings from just £3.50

Please note, every week we have ‘Meat-free Monday’ with a wide range of vegetarian and vegan fillings available.

Curiositea

At Curiositea we try to offer something for everyone - traybakes, loaf cakes and a huge selection of ethically-sourced teas to refresh and invigorate early birds, while caffeine lovers can choose from our menu of speciality flavoured coffees. Or you can happily laze away an afternoon with a big slice of vegan or gluten free cake and an indulgent hot chocolate...

Loyalty cards - Buy 8 drinks and the 9th one is on us

The Dirty Duck

The Dirty Duck is our fantastic eatery at the centre of the Warwick campus, serving up a delicious menu of freshly prepared food alongside guest ales and a great range of gins and rum.

Burger and a Pint deal - Buy any burger and get a pint of Carling/Magners/Coke Zero/Lemonade/Fanta for just £1

Loyalty cards - Buy 9 burger and pint deals and get the 10th one on us

The perfect place on campus to relax and unwind! The view over the entire Piazza from the Terrace balcony, and our expertly stocked bar, make the Terrace Bar a great way to spend your evenings.

Bus Stop - Enjoy a range of discounted drinks 5-7pm, Monday to Friday

Fishbowls - We are dropping our prices back to just £6 for a limited time only

Warm spaces

As your Union, we want students to know that SU buildings are your buildings, and everyone is welcome to make use of the warm spaces located within them during this winter. On the first floor of SUHQ, we have lots of comfortable sofas towards the back of the building, and working areas with comfy seating located adjacent to these, along with microwaves which are available to all students.

At the entrance to the first floor, on your left opposite reception, we also have the Green Room. This is a large, open and well-lit space in which you can work, have meetings or just relax.

Just up the stairs, on the 2nd floor, we also have similar comfortable seating, with both sofas and chairs.

All these spaces are open from 8am-10pm, so please do feel free to make use of them. As your elected Officers and Union staff, we're always happy to be in a lively building full of students, and we want you to feel at home here.