Internships for most act as the bridge between the deep and murky waters of post-graduate job finding. Whether it was an internship position for which you took a break in your degree in a sandwich course, or whether it was after finishing the degree as a way to get valuable experience before the full-time job, most will agree that it acts as invaluable experience. However, the likelihood is that most of the internships that you have seen advertised have little or no salary promised with it, usually citing the wage offered as limited to ‘travel expenses only’.
This practice has caused a stir of late with HM Revenues and Customs checking into over 200 companies amid reports that the schemes were being used as a form of cheap labour, raising the question as to what it is that constitutes work that makes an intern qualify for the UK National Minimum Wage salary. Here’s what is outlined on the HMRC site:
Internship rights to national minimum wage
The pay that you are entitled to depends on the employment status that is held while working; as a worker, a volunteer, or an employee. An intern is entitled to the National Minimum Wage if they count as a worker. Employers can’t avoid paying the National Minimum Wage if it’s due by:
– Saying or stating that it doesn’t apply
– Making a written agreement saying someone isn’t a worker or that they’re a volunteer
The simplest way to look at it would be if you are regularly doing work that would usually require a current paid employer to do it if you were not there, then you may be eligible to receive payment for it.
Promise of future work
An intern is classed as a worker and is due the National Minimum Wage if they’re promised a contract of future work. If an intern does regular paid work for an employer, they may qualify as an employee and be eligible for employment rights. However, while you may feel that you might feel that you are entitled to a wage, it is advisable to exercise politeness and procedure when and if you enquire.
The government recently released news that more is going to be done to protect interns’ rights to fair payment, published on 11th November and available to view here. These guidelines have led people who have completed internships to claim a wage from their host organisations.
Manchester based solicitor Emma Cross highlights a case in which a former intern at Sony has made a settlement with the company for £4,600. The intern, Chris Jarvis, stated that he had been expected to shadow a current employee at Sony but instead claimed that he actually worked as a tester of the 3D artwork for Sony games.
The backlash has not just been experienced in the gaming industry. In the U.S publication corporation giants Condé Nast, who own magazines such as Vogue, GQ, and Glamour, have recently been sued by two former interns. The cases arose after a number of other interns in the U.S had successfully sued their former host organisations for the work that they had carried out exceeding that of what entitled a wage. This has ultimately resulted in Condé Nast declaring that they are going to discontinue their internship scheme; a decision which caused interested parties to discuss whether the experience gained and opportunities opened in an internship is worth the wage in itself.
All things considered, it is advised that you are aware of your rights as an intern and what you are entitled to. However, it shouldn’t be forgotten that the process is all about gaining the experience, something that will set you in good stead for going into the working world. Perhaps most importantly, it should be an experience that you enjoy!