The government last week issued guidance for businesses who offer work experience, placements and internships, which makes clear when someone is entitled to be paid the National Minimum Wage (NMW).
It also includes a new worker checklist for employers and examples of case studies, which aims to make sure that those who are entitled to the NMW receive it.
Irrespective of job title, the guidance states that workers are entitled to be paid the minimum wage if the arrangement that an employer has with them makes them a worker for NMW purposes.
The term “intern” has no legal status under NMW law, so entitlement is not dependent on on what someone is called, the type of work they do, how the work is described (eg 'unpaid' or 'expenses only') or the profession or sector they work in.
Although some forms of work experience, including placements and internships, may be referred to as 'unpaid work' or 'expenses only' (where an individual gives their services free of charge in order to develop or maintain their skills), organisations must check if the individual is a volunteer for NMW purposes or if an exemption applies.
TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber welcomed the guidance saying that : “The growing misuse of interns is becoming one of the biggest abuses of the minimum wage.
“It's good to see the government finally taking this issue seriously, and it's essential that today's guidance is used by young people to ensure that they get paid what they are due.
“But guidance alone won't end this abuse and it needs to be backed up with tougher enforcement of the minimum wage.”
For more information about the TUC’s campaign to ensure that interns understand their rights at work, and are paid accordingly, go to the rights for interns section of the TUC website.
To download the government’s guidance, go to the National minimum wage section of the Business Link website.
Anyone who feels they were entitled to be paid the NMW, but weren’t, should contact the Pay and Work Rights helpline on 0800 917 2368 for free and confidential advice.