Should We Extend Work Hours for International Students in the UK?

International students attending university in the UK are allowed (in the majority of cases) to take on part-time work not exceeding 20 hours per week. The idea is that students are able to make the most of their life abroad by meeting friends outside their academic studies, and to earn money for travelling, and daily living expenses. BA students are allowed to work full-time during vacations.

At Swarme we encounter a number of international students who are doing just that, and we greatly value the work they do for us. They are attracted to the Swarme ethos because we provide flexible hours that allow students to fit work around their studies.

“Swarme is ideal for me. I work evenings and study daytimes. The work is local to my uni and if an assignment is due, I can do less. I’m not tied to a set number of hours a week. In holiday times I can do more.”

Australia Takes an Innovative Approach to International Working Hours

The rules for international students wanting to work in Australia were the same as in the UK, until recently. The COVID-19 pandemic has created large labour shortages across a number of sectors and so, in July 2021, the Australian government lifted the working hours cap for students to work in specific sectors during the crisis.

Many job vacancies in care homes, and supermarkets were filled by international students for a period whilst the lockdowns were in place. More recently, as the Omicron variant hits the construction industry and supply chains, the Australian government is looking once more to the international student population to come to their aid by taking on extra hours, should they choose to do so.

Would a Similar Approach Work in the UK?

Throughout the pandemic (2019-2022) sectors such as social care and the NHS have struggled to maintain staffing levels against the greatest odds. Currently there are approximately 45,000 care worker vacancies, and 94,000 NHS vacancies. Could international students help us to fill those vacancies at times of particularly heavy demand?

Student union representatives express concern that using students in this way may compromise their studies. Of course, there would need to be careful management of the situation, and any removal of the cap would need to be seen a temporary fix, rather than a long-term solution. There are ways that this could work, but only if the following conditions were met:

  • Clear decisions made about the sectors in most need of extra workers.
  • Postgraduate students with relevant qualifications for care, nursing etc. are encouraged to come forward.
  • International students receive the same pay as UK citizens for the work they do.
  • The choice of whether or not to take on extra work lies with each student; no pressure should be put on students to work longer hours.
  • The period of extended working hours is finite, and clearly communicated to students and employers.

Working With Swarme

We’re always delighted to welcome students from the UK or overseas to sign up for our online platform. It’s simple to do and takes no longer than 5 minutes. You can then browse our jobs board for current vacancies. You can choose when and where you work, and if you have course work to submit you can take a break in order to concentrate on your studies.

Want to know more about working with Swarme? Call us on 01234 841809 for an informal chat. Or you can talk to us in person. Drop in on any Monday, no appointment needed, between 10.30am and 4pm at 231 Bedford Rd, Kempston, Bedford MK42 8DA. We’d love to meet you!