Sometimes it seems like living the student life is a sure way of being constantly short of money. Students often find that their loans or personal savings aren't enough to cover all their expenses, so many take on part-time work to help them get through the year.
It's important to make sure any part-time work you do fits around your study schedule, and doesn't affect your coursework. It's great if you can find something related to your degree, but it's ok if you can't - you'll still get valuable experience in key skills that can be transferred to any future career, as well as a bit more cash in your bank account.
Before you look for part-time work, make sure you understand what your employment rights are so you know you're being treated fairly alongside full-time workers.
As a student, you are entitled to earn at least National Minimum Wage (NMW). Some jobs can pay much more - particularly as you gain experience in the role - but make sure you earn at least the amount you're eligible for. If you work in a job where you'll receive tips, such as waiting tables, your employer cannot count that money towards your minimum wage. Tips are meant to be additional pay to your NMW hourly rate.
The NMW rates are:
£2.50 per hour for apprentices under 19, or 19 or and in the first year of their apprenticeship
£3.64 per hour for workers aged 16-17 (who are above school leaving age, but under 18)
£4.92 per hour for workers aged 18-20
£5.93 per hour for workers aged 21 and over
From 1 October 2011, the NMW rates will increase to:
£2.60 per hour for apprentices under 19, or 19 or and in the first year of their apprenticeship
£3.68 per hour for workers aged 16-17 (who are above school leaving age, but under 18)
£4.98 per hour for workers aged 18-20
£6.08 per hour for workers aged 21 and over
You can find out more about NMW at www.direct.gov.uk/en/Employment
Students will have to pay income tax and national insurance on part-time earnings, just as full-time workers do. However, you have to earn over a certain amount each year before you pay this tax. The standard personal allowance for a single person in the tax year 2011-2012 is £7,475 (the tax year begins on 6th April in a given year and ends on 5th April the following year). If you earn less than the amount set for the tax year you're working in, you will not need to pay income tax. However, some employers may deduct tax from your wages, as they need to do this for all of their full-time workers - the good news is that you can claim this back as a refund at the end of the tax year if you have not earned more than the limit.
If you are working over the holidays and you know your income won't exceed £7,475, you should make sure you fill in a student exemption form to stop tax being deducted from your pay - this is called a P38 (www.hmrc.gov.uk/forms/p38s.pdf