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Work experience

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Last updated 9th November 2014.

Work experience is covered by the Equality Act, either under the normal employment provisions or under the provisions for education providers such as universities. This page does not necessarly apply if a university of or other education provider is involved: see separate page on Work placements related to education courses.


The Equality Act applies to work experience. The employment provisions of the Act apply in the normal way unless an education institution such as a university has power to afford access to the work experience. 

If an education institution does have power to afford access, then in some cases (where the student is not an ’employee’) claims must go to the County Court rather than the employment tribunal. (It is a different court in Scotland, or in the case of schools). The student should (not least under EU law) still be protected by the Equality Act in respect of discrimination, whether it is by the university or the third party providing the work experience. However, at present there is uncertainty as to how the Equality Act applies technically in respect of actions of the third party.

Which provisions apply to the work experience?

If an educational institution does not have power to afford access or (it seems), even though it does that power, the student is an ’employee’, ‘the individual is covered under the employment provisions (Part 5) of the Equality Act. Claims against the employer (and perhaps, in some cases, against the educational institution) can go to the employment tribunal. See below Work experience not arranged by an education institution

Whether an ’employee’

In deciding whether the student is an ’employee’, the wide definition in s.83(2) Equality Act applies. This definition includes a contract of employment, a contract of apprenticeship, or a ‘contract personally to do work’. So the student may well be an ’employee’ if he or she is paid, or if he or she otherwise has a contract with the company providing the placement. See Employees and beyond and Volunteers.

Work experience not arranged by an education institution

If an education provider does not have power to afford access to the work experience, the employment provisions of the Equality Act apply to the work experience, so that any claims go the employment tribunal.

Firstly, the person may be an ’employee’ within s.83(2) (see Work placements related to education courses>If the student is an ’employee’). In this case it seems the normal employment provisions apply to the relationship between employer and employee. The special ’employment services’ provisions are not needed, and are excluded by s.56(3) EqA.

Even if the person is not an ’employee’, the work experence should still fall within the employment provisions of the Equality Act, on the basis that it is an ’employment service’ within s.55 EqA. The definition of employment service in EqA s.56 includes: ‘Work experience (including work experience the duration of which is not agreed until after it begins)’. The definition also includes ‘making arrangements for the provision of’ work experience. See too the Employment Code para 11.59.

The normal prohibitions on discrimination will apply to work experience. Claims go to the employment tribunal. Even where the work experience is an ’employment service’, the reasonable adjustment duty on organisations providing work experience is similar to the duty for employment generally. Under Sch 8 para 2 the duty is owed to an ‘interested disabled person’, which for an employment service consisting of work experience is defined in EqA Sch 8 para 16.

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