Work Experience: Does it need to be so difficult to organise? | Navigate
Work Experience: Does it need to be so difficult to organise?

Date: 07 April 2017

In recent months we’ve spoken to a number of schools and colleges that are concerned or confused about health and safety requirements when organising work experience. They want to offer safe, high quality placements for students, but don’t want to put their organisation at risk of litigation.

They tell us that a culture of fear has developed around risk assessments, insurance and DBS checks in relation to work experience. In this short Q&A we consider three common topics and, hopefully, demonstrate how a pragmatic approach can be used to ensure work placements are safe, but not arduous to organise. 

Question 1: Do employers have to obtain separate insurance for work experience students?

No.

As far back as 2013 the government responded to employer and school confusion around health and safety rules for work experience students, through this letter, which stated:

The government wishes to confirm that the insurance industry has committed to treat work experience students as employees for the purposes of employer’s liability insurance… and that giving work experience opportunities to students will not impact on employer’s insurance premiums.”

The Association of British Insurers confirms that any employer that has current liability insurance can provide standard work placements for school and college students without requiring any additional cover.

Question 2: Should we risk-assess all potential work placements?

No.

When it comes to risk assessments, the Health and Safety Executive has made clear that they believe schools must “stop over-interpretation of the law”. The expectation is that young people on work experience should be given the same health and safety protections as any other member of the workforce.

The HSE explains that “employers are best placed to assess whether or not they need to anything additional” when a young person joins them for work experience. Finally, they suggest that schools and colleges “should not be second-guessing employers’ risk assessments or require additional paperwork”.

With this in mind, you may decide it is appropriate to ask employers that risk assessments are in place and that these assessments have been completed by a suitably-skilled/qualified person.

Questions 3: Do we need to use a placement checking service?

Not necessarily.

It is down to the school or college to decide if a third-party checking service is appropriate. However, we have worked with many that currently use these services and are concerned about future budget sustainability.

To help make this choice, the HSE has provided some useful dos and don’ts for schools and colleges. This lays out clearly exactly what work experience co-ordinators should do to satisfy themselves that students will be safe on work placement. This includes:

  • Checking that the employer has current Employers Liability Insurance.
  • Considering the potential risk of the placement and, if necessary, discussing this with the employer.
  • Relying on past or locally-pooled experience. DO NOT duplicate checks on employers and ensure they are not requested to do things multiple times.

If you’d like to find out how our leading Work-Related Learning platform, Navigate, can support your work experience programme through smartphone-friendly journals, employer feedback and central storage for insurance and risk assessment information, let me know.