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Employment rights and issues

Unpaid experience

In an effort to gain work experience, some students consider taking unpaid work experience opportunities. We encourage employers to pay students or graduates in any situation where they are considered workers, so only advertise paid opportunities.

If you are considering unpaid experience, read the following.

Know your rights

Make sure you know and understand your rights. Under UK legislation, if you are classed as a worker, then you are entitled to be paid at least national minimum wage, unless you fall under one of the exceptions. See the Directgov website for definitions of workers and details of the exceptions. 

Know your goals and industry

In some sectors it can, unfortunately, be extremely difficult to find paid experience, although this does not mean it is impossible. If you are considering unpaid experience, think about the following before agreeing to anything:


  • Is experience essential to get into this sector?
  • If so, are there other ways of gaining experience?
  • Will the experience enable you to develop the skills and experience required by the industry?
  • Is it clear what you are expected to do during your experience? How will you be supported?
  • Will you be working alone or with others? Is there a genuine learning opportunity?
  • Plan how you can maximise the opportunity - this might be in terms of making contacts, developing specific skills, gaining an insight into different areas of the business. Also, see our page on making the most of your experience.
  • Are you able to do it as part of a module so that you can gain academic credit for the work you are doing?
  • If no pay is available, can you negotiate expenses?
  • If no pay is available, could you agree more flexible or shorter-term experience to enable you to work part time alongside your experience?

Talk to us

If you need any further information, or help deciding what is best for you, come and speak to us.

Further Support

You can also get further support by visiting our Careers Centre Drop In.

Visit the Careers Centre