We recently made the decision to change the planned amount of placement weeks that students on VN Diploma programmes are required to complete, limiting this to a maximum of 52 weeks over the duration of the training programme. During which the student must complete their practice based skills training to the required standard (i.e. meet the RCVS Day One Skills and Competences).
In making this change the day release programme is no longer offered as an option for placement students due to training weeks being impacted by the college day each week i.e. there would be four training days in practice each week as opposed to five. With the block release programme, the placement blocks are mapped out to ensure that these are optimised as fully as possible and to also avoid clashes with bank holidays.
If a student does not complete their skills training or achieve the required standard within the 52 weeks it may be possible to arrange additional placement time but this is by exception and should not be necessary. As with the 52 weeks of placement designed to be within the programme, exceptional placement would also be unpaid unless the employer chooses to employ the student.
We have previously published legal advice on our website that we have received with regards to National Minimum Wage which whilst confirming the view that placements that are longer than 52 weeks are not subject to National Minimum Wage regulations the advice also notes that it is an untested area in law and as such each employer must decide for themselves what their approach will be. Therefore some veterinary practices and corporate groups have implemented policies limiting placements to 52 weeks.
All non-employed/placement students booked to attend placements do so on the understanding between the student and the practice that the placements are unpaid, but if employers wish to do so, then they may pay the students. If the practice chooses to pay the student, then they must comply with the National Minimum Wage Regulations because the student becomes an employee. The College of Animal Welfare do not have any involvement in discussions regarding payment of students and practices are not obliged to pay placement students.