Guidance on minimum wage entitlements for work experience and internshipsFriday, September 23rd, 2011
Persons engaged on work experience placements are entitled to the national minimum wage unless the employer can demonstrate that they are volunteers or a specific exemption applies.
The Business Link website section on the National Minimum Wage (NMW) has been updated to include specific guidance about “work experience” placements and internships.
Businesses that offer work experience and internships must consider whether the individuals are “workers” for NMW purposes or whether they are exempt under the statutory provisions. If individuals claim that they are owed arrears of the NMW, it is for the business to demonstrate that they are “volunteers” or that they are workers but an exemption applies. Whether or not such individuals are entitled to the NMW depends on the contractual arrangements between the parties, not on their job titles.
The new guidance points out that there may be entitlement to the NMW in the case of placements that provide experience for a professional career (internships) or that are described as “unpaid work” or “expenses only”. The issue is whether a particular placement meets the statutory definition of “worker”. In simple terms, a worker is a person who is engaged under a contract of employment or otherwise to provide work or services personally under a contract that is clearly not self-employment. The distinction between employment and self-employment is not always easy to determine and the guidance provides a checklist to help businesses identify “workers”.
Guidance is also provided on identifying persons who are volunteers or voluntary workers, and on the various exemptions that apply to those who are actually workers. Exemptions that relate to work experience are
- students working under short-term placements as part of a UK-based further or higher education course,
- individuals undertaking work experience who are still of compulsory school age, and
- participants in specified government schemes or programmes.