Making work experience work for employers

Why offer work experience?

Providing short-term placements helps employers reach the talent, different perspectives and skills that young people – or career changers – offer. It also provides opportunities for your staff to supervise and mentor, helping to develop their management, leadership and communication skills.

Students bring the interests and needs of the next generation of patients and customers. Engaging with the community also helps boost your profile and customer loyalty. 

Work experience programmes typically involve shadowing an employee and last for around two weeks but there’s no set rule. 

Reach out to a wide range of providers

Contact your local school or college to discuss work experience opportunities. Think about attending careers fairs, open evenings and school events.

Don’t rely on word-of-mouth alone. That can lead to missed opportunities, especially for under-represented groups such as neurodiverse or disabled people.

Be flexible with any criteria such as qualifications. Not everyone has had the same opportunities. Instead, think about relevant skills, such as effective communication. 

The CIPD has an inclusive recruitment guide to help you attract diverse talent and ensure your processes are fair.

The law

You need to consider your legal obligations but this isn’t as onerous as you might imagine. 

Criminal records check

The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check is not compulsory for staff supervising people aged 16-17. You only need a check if an employee’s specific job purpose is looking after under-16 work experience students.

For more information, see the DBS eligibility tool.  

Employment rights

Employment rights and the minimum wage do not apply to students of compulsory school age on work experience. For more information, see the CIPD employment law resource


If your insurer is a member of the Association of British Insurers people on work experience should be covered by your employers’ liability insurance policy. Find out more at  

Risk assessment 

Employers have to manage risks for all workers, including any particular workplace risks for young people who are new to the environment. They may not be as aware of dangers as experienced workers. If you have fewer than five employees you don’t require a written risk assessment. However, if you are taking on a work experience student for the first time, it’s important to review risk assessments and identify their individual needs before they start. If a work experience student increases staff levels to five temporarily you don’t need a written risk assessment.

Health and safety 

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has reviewed their guidance to make it easier for employers to offer work experience. 

As an employer, you are responsible for the student’s health and safety and should manage any significant risks:

  • explain the risks and how they are controlled during the induction
  • check they understand this and know how to raise any health and safety concerns
  • for more advice on health and safety, visit the HSE


An employer that takes on a student of compulsory school age for short-term work experience does not need to pay them on a placement during a further or higher education course. Find out more at ACAS.

For more detail on the legal obligations for employing young people, read the CIPD employment law resource on recruitment.

Before they start

Ask the student to send in a CV to find out more about them. 

Plan what they will do. Give them a variety of tasks and rotate them between teams so they see different aspects of the workplace. You could arrange lunch with different colleagues every day. 

Think about choosing a team member and blocking out time in their schedule to supervise the young person. It’s a great development opportunity.


Young people may not understand the unspoken expectations in the workplace. Provide a brief induction, explaining your organisation, detailing how it is structured, the key people they will meet and their roles.

Offer a tour of the building, including the toilets, first aid facilities, fire exits and evacuation procedures, as well as health and safety information.

Share your plan for what they will do and who they will meet. Be clear about how they will be supported during work experience – explain who will supervise them.

Before they go

At the end of the placement, hold a meeting to review how everything went. Some students may have a diary to complete. Always offer constructive feedback, outlining the positives and any development areas.

Think about offering further support – agreeing to act as a referee or encouraging them to stay in touch.  

Hold a review with the person who supervised the student. What did they gain from the experience?

More information for students