Are Unpaid Internships Illegal?

Recent discussion on the subject of unpaid internships suggests that there may be a legal basis for insisting that employers offering internships must also offer the national minimum wage.

In particular, Business Link offer the following guideline to employers on their website:

“If you or your organisation offer work experience, including ‘placements’ and internships, you need to consider whether the individual who will work for you is entitled to the national minimum wage (NMW). It is your responsibility to determine whether or not the individual is a worker for NMW purposes and, if they are, whether an exemption applies to them. Failure to pay the NMW to someone who is entitled to it is against the law. If an unpaid individual claims that they are owed arrears of the NMW, the onus is on you to prove that they are not a worker or that no arrears are owed. An individual’s entitlement to the NMW does not depend on their job title but on the contractual relationship with their employer.”

This may not be welcome news for employers, some of whom may wish to retreat from offering internships as a result. But from a student and graduate point of view, it clearly offers a strong negotiation position for those considering the offer of an internship.

If you want more details, follow the further links from the relevant page on the Business Link website.