Firms failing to pay students on internships and work-experience placements minimum wage break the law

Many organisations are unwittingly breaking minimum wage laws when they employ unpaid interns or hand out work-experience placements, legal experts have warned.

Concerns were raised after it came to light that some MPs could be breaking the law by not paying the minimum wage to interns.

Revenue and Customs staff issued guidance to the House of Commons, explaining that interns could be eligible for the minimum wage if they were obliged to work set hours.

And Naeema Choudry, employment partner at law firm Eversheds, said many industries, including media, fashion and architecture, regularly broke the law.

Work-experience placements are only exempt from minimum wage legislation if they go to students on certain higher education courses, individuals undertaking placements that consist entirely of job shadowing, or volunteers.

Choudry said HR managers needed to check whether unpaid work placements in their businesses qualified for exemption from the minimum wage. “As soon as you start controlling working hours it is not truly voluntary,” she warned.

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