Unpaid Interns are Illegal, Employers Warned
Businesses taking on interns without paying them are breaching national minimum wage legislation, the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) has warned.
A joint report by the political think tank IPPR and internships lobby group Internocracy has highlighted that it is illegal to employ an unpaid intern, and calls for Government and unions to give better guidance to employers.
The report, Why Interns Need a Fair Wage, claims that almost one in five firms pay interns nothing at all, while more than a quarter pay less than the adult national minimum wage.
Yet interns – usually students and graduates taking up temporary work placements to gain experience in the industry they want to work in – are legally classified as “workers”. This means they have the same holiday entitlements as other employees and must be paid at least the national minimum wage.
“Too many employers don’t understand the law when it comes to hiring interns.”
said report co-author, Kayte Lawton.
“There is a mistaken belief that employers can take on people on a voluntary basis if both sides agree, but that’s not what the law says.”
“If an intern is doing work for a business, then they need to be paid — it’s as simple as that.”
Employers failing to pay interns could find themselves facing an employment tribunal, according to Internocracy. The lobby group’s director, Dom Potter, said failing to pay interns could also damage businesses.
“We now have entire industries that rely on the willingness of young people to work for free. In the long run this is bad for business because it damages the reputation of these industries and makes it difficult for them to recruit from the broadest pool of talent.”
Minister for universities and science, David Willetts, said that the Government would consider the findings carefully.
“Young people have been the biggest victims of the recession.”
“We’re committed to helping them get into work and realise their ambitions. Internships can contribute to this, but the exploitation of interns is unacceptable and employment legislation must not be breached.”