Emmanuel May Ball has rescinded dozens of offers previously made to students to work half-on, half-off shifts.

Students who were due to work the half shifts have criticised the decision, describing this working arrangement as “one of the only affordable ways” to attend a May Ball.

The arrangement would have allowed student employees to work either the first or second half of the ball, with their payment being free entrance to the event for the rest of the night.

Students who were previously promised half-on half-off work received an email from the Emmanuel May Ball Committee informing them that their offers had been retracted following “legal advice from the college”.

The students were then given the offer to either work a full shift (10.5 hours) or to purchase a full-price ticket (£185) on a “first-come first-served basis”.

The presidents of the Emmanuel May Ball Committee told Varsity that the decision was made because the type of shift “does not sufficiently comply with paid employment requirements”.

The committee claimed they were “devastated” to cancel shifts that made the ball “more accessible for many”, but said they had no choice but to “comply with legal employment standards”.

They said that the committee has since been forced to sell more tickets than planned in order to cover the cost of hiring paid workers rather than unpaid half-on half-off workers.


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One affected student, Emma Sainsbury, said the decision is “very disappointing” as “half-on half-off shifts are one of the only affordable ways to go to a May Ball”.

Another student, Meg Dearden-Hellawell, criticised the move for “making the already exclusive culture of May Week more inaccessible”. At £185, she argued that “the tickets should have been discounted” for affected students.

Multiple other May Balls this year, such as Caius and Trinity Hall, have maintained their offer of half-on, half-off shifts to students, and have not yet rescinded any offers.

Emmanuel May Ball’s Committee told Varsity: “This turn of events is far from ideal, but as students ourselves, we have tried our absolute best to work through this as well as we can in the face of circumstances that are beyond our control.”

Emmanuel College has been contacted for comment.