Unpaid Interns: Are Employers Breaking The Law?

Unpaid Interns: Are Employers Breaking The Law?

According to , 40,000 students who graduated from university last summer are still seeking full-time work.  Many are working as interns to gain some experience.  Unfortunately most of them seem to be working unpaid.

Under the National Minimum Wage Act 1998, anyone deemed a “worker” is entitled to the minimum wage (currently, £5.80 for workers over 22; £4.83 for 18 to 22 year olds; and £3.57 per hour for all workers under the age of 18, who are no longer of compulsory school age). 

Many employers classify interns as “volunteers”, however, and therefore refuse to pay them the minimum wage, or even their expenses.

In reality, of course, most interns work really hard, do essential work, and organisations simply use them to cut costs – in clear contravention of the National Minimum Wage Act.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said:

‘While internships can be a valuable means of providing young people with work experience, great care needs to be taken to ensure that they are not used to exploit young people or as a substitute for real jobs.  It is important that interns receive their legal rights and are paid at least the minimum wage.’

A genuine volunteer should be given the chance to learn as much as possible during the period of their internship.  Time spent shadowing an experienced professional, training, and accruing other valuable experience clearly shows that the intern is being offered something more fulfilling than simply unpaid work.

** UK employment law – additional information & advice **

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