Here you will find frequently asked HR questions from students’ unions and responses from the NUS HR Support Unit and DWF Employment Law Solicitors.

If you have a question, feel free to email it to


Q. Where can I find some central information about the current annual remuneration of sabbatical officers?
A. NUS capture this data centrally through the NUS Membership Survey. Visit:

Pensions Auto-enrolment

Q. If an employee opts out of automatic enrolment can they opt back in before the three year automatic re-enrolment requirement?
A. Yes, provided that at the point of opt in they are either an eligible jobholder or a non-eligible jobholder (see the toolkit for definitions of these terms).

Michelle Jenkins - Employment Solicitor at DWF
Q. What happen if an employee is under age 22 at the student union’s staging date?
A. It is necessary to continually monitor the eligibility of the employee each pay reference period and once they turn age 22 and earn over the earnings trigger (currently £9,440 pa) pro-rated then it will be necessary to automatically enrol that employee into a qualifying pension scheme.

Michelle Jenkins - Employment Solicitor at DWF
Q. Is it possible for an employee to opt out before their employer’s staging date or before they commence employment with the student’s union?
A. No, an employee can only opt out once he or she has been automatically enrolled.  There is a one month window following automatic enrolment during which he can opt out and be treated as though he had never joined the scheme.

Michelle Jenkins - Employment Solicitor at DWF
Q. What proportion of employees are opting out?
A. Statistics for those employers who are currently operating automatic enrolment (so the larger employers) show that around 9 – 10% of employees who are automatically enrolled have opted out.  This may be different for smaller employers.

Michelle Jenkins - Employment Solicitor at DWF
Q. Our student staff are paid monthly by the hour for hours worked the previous month, can we assess them monthly rather than weekly?
A. Yes.  New regulations introduced in November 2013 mean that it is now possible to treat the frequency of a pay period as being the pay reference period for assessment purposes.

Michelle Jenkins - Employment Solicitor at DWF
Q. Can students opt out before they are paid and who bears the cost of refunds?
A. An employee can only opt out once he has been automatically enrolled, so if this happens before he receives his pay that month then yes, he could opt out before he is paid.  If his pension contribution has already been deducted and gone through payroll then either the employer or the pension scheme will refund the contribution to the employee (depending upon whether the contribution is still with the employer or has already been passed to the pension scheme .

Michelle Jenkins - Employment Solicitor at DWF

 Q. Do students' unions have to offer the same sick pay and holiday entitlement as they do to part time career staff?
A. If an employee is a part time worker, an agency worker or a fixed term worker then there is legislation in place to ensure that they are not treated less favourably to other employees. If your student staff do not fall into these categories then you can limit their entitlement to statutory minimums but you should be cautious to ensure that an employee does not fall into a category that is protected.

Michelle Jenkins - Employment Solicitor at DWF
Q. Where student staff work more hours than their minimum fixed hour entitlement how should a students' union deal with an increased entitlement to holiday pay?
A. The general rule here is that an employee is entitled to a week's pay for a week's leave. The way that an employee's holiday entitlement is calculated depends on a number of  factors. If an employee has normal fixed hours then their annual leave is calculated in accordance with these hours. If an employee's overtime is not guaranteed then it would not be included when looking to calculate the holiday entitlement. It is only when overtime is guaranteed (and therefore the employee's normal hours change) that you would need to recalculate the entitlement. If an employee has no normal working hours (i.e. they are constantly working different hours) then you would need to look at their previous 12 weeks and calculate their average weekly number of hours over this period to establish holiday entitlement. Holiday pay should then be paid at the point at which an employee takes their holiday.

Michelle Jenkins - Employment Solicitor at DWF