Almost half of placements and internships go unpaid

Almost half of employers admit that they do not pay students and graduates who join them for work experience placements or internships, potentially breaching minimum wage legislation.

According to research published today by XpertHR, four employers in 10 (44%) that offer work experience for students and graduates do not pay them a wage. In addition, 38% do not pay expenses and 27% pay neither wages nor expenses.

The survey asked for respondents’ views on whether or not placements and internships should be paid. Fewer than half (45%) of respondents agreed with the statement that “taking on unpaid students to carry out work, under the guise of work experience, is unethical and should not be allowed”.

Of the organisations that said they do pay a wage, some pay all their interns, while some pay only in certain circumstances.

Even among those respondents that do pay, the amount differs significantly. Some pay the national minimum wage, while some pay above this rate, with the highest pay rate recorded by the survey being £10 per hour. At the other end of the spectrum, one respondent admitted to paying less than the minimum wage rate, at £2.50 per hour.

Typically, the survey respondents offer placements lasting between eight and 21 weeks, although the maximum length highlighted by the survey is 60 weeks. Among those not paying a wage for internships, the duration varies from one week to one year.

Charlotte Wolff, author of the report, said: “Under national minimum wage legislation, anyone who is a ‘worker’ at an organisation must be paid at least the minimum wage. However, it is not always clear to employers how this applies to people on work experience placements as there are some exemptions for certain types of work experience, and, according to guidance on the Business Link website, each case is different. Our research indicates that employers have differing views on the payment of interns, and little uniformity in terms of why they might choose to pay some individuals and not others.”

For further details, read the full report on XpertHR.

XpertHR also has further information available on the national minimum wage.

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