Guest Post: Interns and the National Minimum Wage
BY Inspiring Interns
Interns have been in the media a lot over the last 12 months. Some people see them as a way for businesses to take advantage others, the government included, see them as a way for young people to gain valuable on the job experience. Where you stand is not what this article is interested in. We have come to discuss how an internship works with the National Minimum wage.
Internships have no formal standing within National Minimum Wage legislation and as such must fit within existing legal framework. The key to establishing whether an intern qualifies for the NMW is whether their role can be classified as one of a worker or as one of a volunteer. Anyone can complete a volunteer internship, regardless of age or qualifications.
Broadly, a worker will have a fixed list of duties and responsibilities and will have set hours. A volunteer has no form of contract (written or implied) and there is no obligation on them to perform work.
Unpaid interns cannot be given sole responsibility for specific tasks. Set learning aims can be laid out before an internship and this alone does not constitute a contract. Unpaid interns are also free to come and go as they please.
If you are hiring an intern to complete specific tasks they should be paid NMW. If the internship period is predominantly one of training then it may be exempt from NMW.
Some key points of advice from the Business Link website:
“If you engage someone on a work shadowing or on a volunteer basis, it is recommended that you agree elements of the arrangement in writing, such as learning objectives, and then tailor their activities to these learning objectives. Documenting objectives for the work experience and recording that you will reimburse someone for ‘out of pocket’ expenses will not, in itself, amount to an employment contract or a contract to personally perform work or services which entitles the individual to the NMW.
Individuals who are undertaking placements on a volunteer basis are not workers for NMW purposes.
The intention behind the unpaid activity (whether to benefit the environment, other groups, or the individual personally) is irrelevant. An individual can volunteer to do work for you or your organisation for non-altruistic reasons, eg someone may volunteer to do work to gain experience or in the hope that they will get a good reference.”
As you can see the focus is on getting work experience. Any intern undertaking a position at a company should bear this in mind. If you feel that the company you are interning at is treating you like a fully paid employee then speak up. You are there to gain work experience not as an unpaid worker.
N.B. This is a guest post on behalf of inspiring interns an internships agency. This article does not constitute legal advice and is only provided as a general guide to internships and the National Minimum Wage. Inspiring Interns are not liable for any actions taken as a result of this document.