If you are looking to get into working as a vet, veterinary nurse or any other career in the animal health profession, you may have considered doing work experience or voluntary work.
However, if you are also studying while attempting to undertake additional experience, this can be difficult financially – especially if your “work experience” feels more like a real job.
There are certain circumstances under which you should be paid for work experience or trial periods for employment.
In the eyes of the law
Whether you should be paid for your work experience will be determined by whether you are classed as a “worker” under the law.
The terms “work experience” and “intern” have no legal meaning on their own. Generally, if you are getting experience in the veterinary profession, you will either be:
- a worker
- a volunteer
- undertaking a period of work “shadowing”
You will be classed as a worker under the law if you carry out regular work for the organisation you are working for, and you have been promised work in the future under a contract.
A worker is generally entitled to the national minimum wage. If you are classed as a worker under the law, your employer can’t avoid paying you simply by saying “it doesn’t apply”, or by making a statement that you are a volunteer.
The main exception to this is where you truly are a volunteer working for a charitable organisation or statutory body.
You will also not be entitled to pay if you are undertaking a period of work shadowing – if you are watching what happens in the veterinary surgery and not actually undertaking any work.
Are you owed?
If you believe you are entitled to pay for work you have done in your time of work experience you should, in the first instance, discuss this with the organisation you are working for.
It may be that they are willing to pay you for work done.
If you require further advice about your specific circumstances, you can contact the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) on their helpline for free and impartial advice.
The ACAS helpline number is 0300 123 1100. It is available 8am-6pm, Mondays to Fridays.