A crackdown on unpaid internships has been launched by the Government, with warning letters sent out to companies taking advantage of this ‘free’ labour and even going so far as to set up enforcement teams to tackle the repeat offenders. Guidance will also be issued to employers informing them that should they take on interns they are legally obliged to pay at least the national minimum wage.
Just because a job description uses words such as ‘intern’ or ‘work experience’ does not mean that the position can be unpaid. Under UK employment law an intern is considered a worker, who is entitled to receive the national minimum wage if the position meets the following criteria:
1. You are asked to commit to specific hours of work
2. There is a contract between you and the employer; written, verbal or implied
3. Your tasks within the role go beyond shadowing and training
4. You are adding value to the employers business and the tasks would otherwise be performed by a paid employee
An internship can provide invaluable industry experience and helps to enhance your CV, making it more attractive to potential employers. Most internships will fall under the above criteria (with the only exception being a student internship which is part of an education course) so don’t be deterred by applying for them or approaching companies directly for fear of becoming a company slave. Know you rights in advance and all parties will know where they stand.