Tips for foreign students in the workplace

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Having a good degree can open many doors for you, and your career is very likely plotted out in some way. However, these days, a degree is simply not enough, and if you want to optimise your future, you need to consider ways of making your CV look more professionally rounded. In a time when competition is fierce, and every job has more applicants than they can feasibly interview, it is vital that your CV gets you into the interview room and that you have something to say when you get there. The best way to accomplish this is through extracurricular activities, and whether that means a part-time job in a field relevant to your studies, unpaid work experience or even simply volunteering for a local charity, having non-academic achievements on your CV can go a long way to improving your interview chances. However, before you start applying for every job you can find, it's important that you're aware of your rights.

Your employer

No matter where you start work, your employer has a number of legal obligations when it comes to your pay, your safety and the hours that you work. All of these elements need to be addressed by your employer before your first shift, with staff training often a fundamental part of this. There are also other rights to consider, such as your right to privacy and, of course, the right to work without fear of discrimination. It doesn't matter if you have managed to find work with a large corporation or a fast food restaurant next to your university accommodation, the fact is that you have these levels of protection in order to safeguard both you and the employer from breaking the law. Never accept a work placement with an employer who dismisses any of the key elements, otherwise, you could find yourself in an unpleasant and illegal work environment.

How do I know if my employer is doing everything right?

As you go through the employment process, it becomes easier to see if your employer is going to look after your well-being. If no mention is made about the health and safety requirements of the workplace, then that should set the alarm bells ringing. However, if your employer displays the logos that tell you they attended a conference on health and safety by an organisation such as ASSE (https://safety.asse.org/), then you can be sure they have taken their role as an employer seriously. Workplace negligence is a serious issue, and by failing to address it, an employer can leave themselves open to all kinds of legal issues. Make sure that you're protected by remaining aware of your employer's responsibilities.

Make sure you fulfill your obligations

If you're lucky enough to obtain a position in a degree related role, or even if you've opted to volunteer for a charity, then it's important that you recognise your own responsibilities as well. Just as every employer is legally required to follow certain standards, so too are employees responsible for their own. While an employer has a number of areas of responsibility, as the employee you have to maintain certain elements of the workplace environment as well. Just like the employer, you need to keep the workplace free from discrimination, as well as provide your payment details and references before you start work. However, in terms of health and safety, it is up to you to make sure that you read the safety posters, pay attention to the training and follow the workplace safety rules. This way, not only are you protecting yourself, but you're also protecting those around you, and that includes the company that you work for.

In case of issues

You have the right to raise any issues that you feel may become harmful, dangerous or constitute bad behaviour in the workplace. Failing to record injuries or report potential issues is more than simply a legal requirement, but a moral obligation as well. Reporting an issue may occasionally feel as if you making a fuss over something small, but if your employer accuses you of causing problems needlessly, then you are still protected legally. This extends to occasions where you are told to work on machinery or in an environment that you consider to be unsafe. The right to refuse dangerous workplace environments is protected by law, and you should never feel obligated to put yourself at risk in order to keep your boss happy. Employers are not allowed to fire you or penalise you in any way for refusing to work dangerously, and it's very important to remember that fact.

Benefits of legal protection

Having laws in place to protect both staff and employers means that everyone is protected at all times. These laws also cover additional elements to your working life, with benefits such as sick pay and holiday pay to be taken into account, as well as the automatic payment of your tax requirements. There is a common misconception that if you're a foreign student working, you do not need to pay Income Tax, but that is not always the case. Depending on your status, and whether your university place has been organised by an employer in your native country, your employer will pay your taxes before they get to you. This has the added benefit of cutting down on any potential misunderstandings with the tax office, and can alleviate the amount of work you have to to do to keep your own financial records up to date.

Your CV will be vastly improved by the addition of activities that are outside of the lecture hall. No matter what kind of work you intend to look for, remember that although you have a number of responsibilities, you are also protected from bad managers by the legal system. By following professional advice and knowing exactly how you are protected will go a long way to ensuring that you get the most out of your time in the workplace. Remember that your experiences at work could make the difference when it comes to a successful interview for your dream job.

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