Universities and colleges are central to shaping the lives of their students and can play a bigger role in helping student-workers navigate their relationships with employers. Many students have little choice but to work through their studies, since student loans often do not cover the costs of living. In order to both study and work, students need work that is flexible to accommodate both, and many choose hospitality to provide that flexibility.

Tutors would be forgiven for believing that their students find a happy balance between working part-time in local bars, restaurants and hotels, and having enough time to devote to study in order to further their future work prospects. However, this is not always the case. Many students face acute dilemmas in juggling work hours and study time with neither employer nor tutor being particularly aware of just how stressed and tired students are, and unable to focus on their course work. Many underachieve because of this and there are many student stories that verify this.

Universities and colleges could be instrumental in improving student achievement in the courses they offer, by simply providing specialist support to those who need to work, and liaising with employers and governing bodies in the hospitality industry to encourage good employment practice where students are concerned.

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Why Support Students

Our research has revealed that the flexibility of zero-hour contracts, intended in law to benefit mutually worker and employer, seems to be often employer-driven only and students can have limited choice about work hours to accommodate study timetables. This has left many students dealing with constant conflict between job and study, often managing impossible situations to keep employers and tutors satisfied. This in turn can jeopardise assignments, revision, and exam results. Students can be dropped from shifts or required to work at short notice, reducing the stability of their income – a critical reason for working in the first place.

There are further issues related to the student worker and the zero-hour contract. Students can fear they will be replaced easily by others wanting work and can feel undervalued. They can also have limited understanding of their rights under zero-hour contracts or what should be in their contract of employment.

See our student page and the FAQs about students’ work experiences and common questions they have.

Many students are in their first job, or the first job in which they need to support themselves, and their experiences are often very challenging. Support and advice from their institution would provide students with much-needed help to combine study and work. Universities would benefit from improved grades and prevent student drop-out prior to course completion.

How to help

Providing process for students to report their problems with employers and their zero-hour contract, and support for a course of action to address those issues.

Providing counselling and support for stress and anxiety arising in the student-worker context

Reaching out to local businesses to encourage them to sign up to the Good Student Employer Charter and to adopt the 8F Framework of Good Principles in Student Employment.

Contributing to the debate. We welcome contributions from universities. Comments, stories, or questions from the University perspective can be submitted here.