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How to hire interns and avoid breaking the law

By June 22, 2015 No Comments

How to hire interns and avoid the pitfalls!

While many firms will be bringing university students and graduates into their firm for internship programmes during the summer months, employers could be breaking the law by failing to give them the same rights as other workers.

According to education think tank the Sutton Trust, there are an estimated 21,000 people carrying out unpaid internships at any one time.

So here is what you need to know before you hire interns for your business.

Work experience or an internship?

There is a big difference between offering a week of work experience to a student, where they shadow your staff and get a flavour of the work environment, and taking on an intern for several weeks with responsibilities and duties.
It is important you’re aware of your obligation to interns!

What rights do interns have?

An intern’s rights depend on their employment status, whether they are classed as a worker or an employee.

A worker is entitled to:

  • the national minimum wage (currently £5.30 for 18-20 year olds);
  • protection from discrimination;
  • statutory paid holidays;
  • statutory breaks;
  • protection from unlawful deductions from their wage;
  • not working more than 48 hours per week (unless they agree);
  • protection for ‘whistleblowing’
  • to not be treated less favourably for only working part-time.

An employee is entitled to:

    • all rights of workers;
    • Statutory Sick Pay;
    • Statutory parental leave and pay;
    • minimum notice period for their employment ending;
    • protection from unfair dismissal;
    • the right to request flexible working;
    • time off for emergencies;
    • Statutory Redundancy Pay.

Employees are those who work under an employment contract, so usually interns will be treated as workers.

Paying interns

Many employers believe there’s a grey area when taking on unpaid interns and, that as long as both parties agree it’s voluntary, there’s no worry about not paying them a wage. This is certainly not the case though!

If your intern is:

  • expected to work a certain number of hours;
  • set tasks and responsibilities;
  • add value to the businesses;

then they are classed as a worker and need the rights outlined above! (The only exception to this rule is for charities, where interns are classed as ‘volunteers’, you can learn more about the rights of volunteers here.)

Need advice on taking on interns?

Get in touch with the Deminos team on: 020 7870 1090 to find out how to hire interns the right way.

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