Work experience – the employer’s role

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The contribution of employers to the school curriculum is immense, and the following guidance will allow you to understand how to undertake work experience safely, and with the maximum benefit for your business and the young learner.  It is intended mainly for pre-16 work experience but can be applied to any temporary placement on your premises.

Work experience is the most important factor in shaping young people’s perceptions of the world of work.  It helps them to learn about a particular occupation, gain valuable personal skills such as independence and team work, and to understand the expectations of employers.

As an employer you have the opportunity to help shape the future workforce and give your employees the chance to develop their supervisory skills.  Getting involved in work experience shows your company is committed to helping the community.

The current Programmes of Study for 14 to 19 year olds in schools and colleges involve activities using the context of work to develop knowledge, skills and understanding useful in work, including learning through the experience of work, learning about work and working practices, and learning the skills for work. This may include work simulations and group visits but actual work experience is still the most direct way this is carried out.

Pre-16 Work Experience

The two main options for work experience pre 16 are:

  • Block Work Experience. Most learners undertake a two week block at some point in Y10 or Y11 while they are still at school. It helps them to learn more about work and helps to prepare them for their future contribution to society.  
  • The Education Act (1966) defines work experience as “A placement on an employer’s premises in which a learner carries out a particular task or duty, or range of tasks or duties, more or less as would an employee, but with an emphasis on the learning aspects of the experience”.

  • Extended Work Experience.  Some learners may undertake work experience over a longer period often for one or more days per week.  This may be to allow them to follow a practical qualification in the work place or for their own development.

Post-16 Work Experience

A variety of options post 16 have work experience as a key component. Currently the key programmes are:

  • Vocational Placements support vocational courses which require direct knowledge of the industry. They are sometimes part of the course requirements and they are usually unpaid.
  • Traineeships provide a structured opportunity for young people who are motivated by work to develop the skills and experience they need in order to be attractive to employers.
  • Apprenticeships provide a real job with training so that you can earn as you learn. They take between 1-4 years to complete and cover 1400 job roles.
  • Internships provide on-the-job training generally for white collar and professional careers. They can be paid or voluntary and sometimes the student has to pay the employer for the experience.

Work Experience and the Law

Section 560 of the Education Act 1996 allows work experience at any time during the last two years of compulsory schooling (Years 10 and 11). The Act also prohibits work experience where the work itself is subject to a statutory age limit.  Local Authorities have overall responsibility for how work experience is managed in their area.  


Learners on work experience are covered under Employers Liability Insurance and Public Liability Insurance as are other employees.  It is advisable that insurers are advised that a learner will be on the premises and the dates.  For organisations covered by Crown Indemnity a statement should be forwarded to the school explaining the exemption and including any forms or paperwork which require signature by parents/schools to acknowledge this.

During 2005 the Association of British Insurers removed the legal necessity for sole traders to take out ELI.  However for the duration of work experience the learner will not be covered without it so employers are strongly encouraged to find out whether they have suitable Public Liability Insurance which would cover the learner and their work activities, or what the cost of temporary ELI cover would be and whether or not schools/parents are willing to cover this.

Play the health and safety sign gameWorking Hours and Conditions

Work placements to support pre-16 learning must be compliant with the EU Working Time Directive.  The number of hours and the pattern of work on any placement are normally a matter of agreement between employer, school, parents / carers and learner.  Local Authorities and schools may stipulate a maximum number of hours to ensure that learners are not asked to work excessively long hours or unsocial hours.

Start/finish times need not be restricted to school hours but must be agreed beforehand by all parties.  Unless the nature of the work does not allow, placements should be between 07:00 and 19:00. In addition a minimum Half hour break should be allowed after a 4.5-hour period of working, a maximum of 8 hours per day and 35 hours per week should apply.  (Work experience: A Guide for Secondary Schools, DfES 2002).

For learners with Saturday jobs, the hours must be aggregated; therefore learners on full- time work experience will be doing excessive hours if they also have part time jobs at the weekend.


Learners are not entitled to receive payment while on a work placement, as it is part of their continuing education programme. However, should an employer wish to contribute to certain expenses such as traveling, meals or by extending the benefits of any employee welfare scheme to learners engaged on work experience, this is quite acceptable.

Preparing to take a student

Employers have the primary duty of care for young learners on their premises, however the placement should be managed by a clear agreement between employer, central organiser, school and parents covering all circumstances, and ensuring that sufficient information has been communicated to allow for safe management.

Planning for work experience may include:

  • Being aware of the objectives of the learner including projects or assignments
  • Giving information about the company and its activities to schools and parents
  • Ensuring that other employees are informed about work experience
  • Complying with legal requirements such as health and safety, equality and child protection regulations
  • Clear induction on day 1
  • Providing a planned programme of work
  • Being supportive
  • Ensuring adequate supervision and monitoring throughout the placement
  • Reviewing how things went after the placement


Before the learner starts you will normally be asked to sign a consent form.  This form is usually brought to the Employer by the student at the formal interview. It will generally be signed by both the parent and the student. If you are satisfied that the placement can take place, please sign the form and allow the student to return it unless you have been asked to do something different by the school or the organisation setting up the work experience placement opportunity. Accompanying the form should be a copy of the Job Description for the placement.


A comprehensive induction should be given to learners on day 1 and should include:

  • Emergency arrangements (fire, accident and first aid)
  • Any significant risks which may affect them e.g.  machinery, equipment, manual handling, hazardous substances, slips/trips, dealing with the public
  • Control measures e.g. safe systems of work, supervision, use of PPE, signs and notices
  • Supervision and key contacts in the organisation
  • Restrictions and prohibitions in the work place
  • Reporting accidents and “near misses”
  • Welfare arrangements such as breaks, toilets, eating/drinking arrangements
  • Company health and safety policy if there is one
  • Any other “do’s” and “don’ts”


Download Checklist 1 and 2 - word | pdf


Checklist 1 – When you agree to take a learner on work experience:



Explain to your staff why you are taking part in work experience and how they can contribute.


Identify who is going to manage the learner – the level of supervision should reflect the learners immaturity.


Consider the tasks that the learner will be able to manage. 
(most placements will last for two weeks)


Draw up a Job Description suitable for the learner


Ensure that work experience is inclusive – can the company support learners with disabilities or learning needs? 



Download Checklist 1 and 2 - word | pdf

Checklist 2 – Before the Placement



Job description?
 (Include hours, breaks, dress code or code of conduct.  If any protective clothing or other equipment are required have you agreed who will provide it?)


Is there a planned programme of activities?
 (learners use work experience to record a range of skills or evidence which can contribute to other school work) 


Have risk assessments been carried out for all activities / work areas.
 (with a pre-16 learner in mind) 


Are Employers Liability Insurance or Public Liability Insurance in place for the duration of work experience unless you have exemption?


Has the learner been given an interview?  (this gives learners the chance to explain why they want to work with you)


Have you been given relevant information about the learner? (health problems, learning difficulties,disabilities  etc)


Has a health and safety check been allowed?  
(it is in everyones interest that the organising body which could be a school or some other organisation helping them check out arrangements for H&S etc.)


Is there a plan of action in case it doesn’t work out? 
(who needs to be involved in talking to the learner about any  problems they might have?)


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