A farmer has raised concerns about industry placements for university students and the contracts that come with them.
The parent, who wished to remain anonymous over fear her child’s placement would be jeopardised, said employers needed to ‘wake up and realise they cannot exploit students’ and that universities should ensure placements comply with what was agreed in the contract.
Speaking of her son’s experience, she said the placement was ‘not what was expected’ and they were ‘counting the days’ until it was over.
“I just hope I can get him back to the happy person he was before he embarked on this part of university life,” she said.
Her son was not being paid minimum wage and was expected to work out-of-hours with no overtime payment, while also having to pay for accommodation out of his salary – contrary to what was in the contract.
Holiday requests were also not accommodated. When he asked if he would be paid for holidays not taken, the employer replied: “Do you not think you have learned a lot?”
His mother said: “I did not imagine there would be people in the farming community who take advantage. Although they think they are doing a service and teaching those students, they do not consider what they are teaching them about fair employment, about how to treat staff, but worst of all how the morale of their student is getting lower and lower.
“As a parent you want your child to be happy and independent but, in light of current news regarding depression in farming, then we, as parents, should ask more questions.”
She said there were other students who felt they could not raise issues due to fear of failing their placement year and called on agricultural universities to ensure any contract was discussed thoroughly before accepting a job.
The Office for Students, the independent regulator of higher education in England, said anyone with concerns about their placement should initially raise them either with the university or with the organisation offering the placement.
A spokesperson said: “Placement years can offer important opportunities for students to prepare for the world of work.
“They are a fulfilling part of many degrees.
“However it is, of course, important that students have all the information they need about the terms and conditions of a placement, and that the organisation offering it sticks to these terms.”