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Employment Rights for Interns and Students

You managed to secure an internship - great! Now it is important to understand how the law treats employment rights and pay for interns and students in the workplace.

The information in this guide explains when interns are (and are not) due the National Minimum Wage and how to make a complaint about working hours.

Interns’ Rights to National Minimum Wage

As a rule, the statutory rights of interns in the United Kingdom depend on the status of their employment.

In most cases, being classed as a worker, means the intern will be due the National Minimum Wage (NMW).

Despite having no legal status in their own right, other terms used for internships include work experience and work placements.

There are several different classifications used to describe ’employment status’. So, an intern’s entitlements will depend most on whether they have:

Note: It is not uncommon for interns to perform regular paid work for an employer. If this is the case, you may qualify as an ’employee’ and qualify for statutory employment rights.

Any intern that counts as a worker would be entitled to receive the National Minimum Wage. What’s more, when interns are due the National Minimum Wage, employers have no legal right to avoid paying it, by:

  • Saying that it does not apply to them (or stating it – such as in a contract of employment).
  • Making a written agreement stating that a person does not have worker status (or their role is a volunteer placement).

Promised a Contract of Future Work

When an intern is promised a contract of future work they will become classed as a worker. This would also mean they are due to get the National Minimum Wage (NMW) from
their employer.

When the NMW is Not Due for Interns

Student Internships

Students will not have entitlement to the National Minimum Wage if they are required to do an internship for less than one (1) year as part of a UK-based further or higher education course.

School Work Experience Placements

The minimum wage is not due to work experience students who have not reached the school leaving age (under sixteen years of age).

Voluntary Workers

As a voluntary worker, you would have no automatic entitlement to receive the minimum wage if you (both):

  • Are working for a charity, a voluntary organisation, or an associated fundraising body (or statutory body).
  • Do not get paid for anything other than for limited benefits (e.g. lunch expenses, reasonable travel costs).
Work Shadowing

An intern who is shadowing an employee would not be carrying out any work (i.e. only observing what they do). Hence, employers do not have to pay a minimum wage for interns placed on this kind of internship.

How to Lodge a Complaint

Interns and students can get further advice about making a complaint by contacting the pay and work rights helpline (e.g. through Acas).

You should use the online form to complain about pay and work rights available on the GOV.UK website. This is the correct way to make a report about working hours or not being paid the National Minimum Wage.

Employment Rights and Pay for Interns and Students in United Kingdom