Interns and National Minimum Wage

The government has published new guidance for interns about their right to fair pay -

The guidance explains to potential interns what their rights are in relation to being paid the national minimum wage and what action to take if they believe they have been exploited.  In short, as national minimum wage legislation does not recognise the concept of “internship”, it is going to be very difficult for anyone offering substantive work placements to do so without paying the national minimum wage, unless that work experience is in accordance with a recognised government or EU training programme, a proper further or higher education placement or the person is a genuine volunteer for a charitable organisation.

In addition, HMRC has stated that it will be sending out letters to 200 employers that have recently advertised intern opportunities and unpaid work. These letters will inform those employers that HMRC will be carrying out checks to ensure that they are paying all their workers the correct national minimum wage. Meanwhile, the trade union Unite has warned that they are going to report high profile charities that exploit unpaid interns to HMRC.
While it is clear that there needs to be a crackdown on organisations that misuse internships to exploit trained labour in return for a name on a cv, this should not deter organisations from offering genuine work shadowing opportunities or charities from using volunteers. These arrangements can bring considerable benefits not just to those involved but to society in general.  However, given the cost and potential criminal sanctions of getting it wrong, it is prudent that any such arrangements are reviewed with care.

David Evans