Legality of unpaid internships. How do companies get away with it? Watch

DuckDodgers
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So after having a Skype interview this afternoon with an employer offering £500 p/m remuneration for a full-time six-month internship, I'm curious to know how and why companies aren't being held legally accountable for under or not paying their employees?

The legal status surrounding internships is murky but the law states that if a verbal or written contract is offered for an employment position, and is dictated by a number of set working per week, then they are classed as a 'worker' and legally entitled to the national minimum wage.

Basically this means if an intern is not volunteering, and doesn't have the choice whether to turn up as and when they please, and is also undertaking unsupervised work, then they are in fact a 'worker' and should be paid according to the current rates of minimum wage (presently £8.21 for those like myself aged over 25).

So given that it's quite clear what the legal case is, how do companies so easily get away with not paying workers properly?

Sources for the source gods:

- https://www.gov.uk/employment-rights-for-interns
- http://www.inspiringinterns.com/blog...pay-an-intern/
- https://lectureinprogress.com/journa...nships-illegal
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Notoriety
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Are you under a duty to turn up? Will you be sued for non-attendance?

The distinction between worker and non-worker, for interns, seems to come down to the type of work you do. If it's mere shadowing, i.e. you're not doing work, then you won't be a worker for the purposes of the NMW Act.
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DuckDodgers
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(Original post by Notoriety)
Are you under a duty to turn up? Will you be sued for non-attendance?

The distinction between worker and non-worker, for interns, seems to come down to the type of work you do. If it's mere shadowing, i.e. you're not doing work, then you won't be a worker for the purposes of the NMW Act.
I'm not actually considering it but yes, as the interviewer explained, there is a duty to turn up. It's a six-month role working full-time hours. It's not merely shadowing as I would be the only marketing role in the company - the current marketing person is leaving.

The post wasn't merely a rant about that company in particular. Websites like Internwise have tons of 'expenses' positions on their site for jobs that are obviously full-time positions, not merely shadowing.

The company in question have several 'paid' roles on there, although they've seemingly removed the one I applied for now.
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Neilos
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I assume the main reasons are that enough people are willing to let themselves be exploited, few people actually know and understand employment law, and even fewer understand the process of actually getting something done about it. Helped along by the likelihood that, even if someone cared enough to jump through every necessary hoop to get any sort of proper investigation started, and if said investigation wasn't closed because there was no proof, the employer probably wouldn't receive a penalty greater than the benefit they'd get from breaking said law.

Same reason employers can get away with shoddy conditions, pay, terms etc in so many fields (including actual fields), I suppose.
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DuckDodgers
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(Original post by Neilos)
I assume the main reasons are that enough people are willing to let themselves be exploited, few people actually know and understand employment law, and even fewer understand the process of actually getting something done about it. Helped along by the likelihood that, even if someone cared enough to jump through every necessary hoop to get any sort of proper investigation started, and if said investigation wasn't closed because there was no proof, the employer probably wouldn't receive a penalty greater than the benefit they'd get from breaking said law.

Same reason employers can get away with shoddy conditions, pay, terms etc in so many fields (including actual fields), I suppose.
Good response. Thanks.

I also assume that people are willing to be exploited and that it's really quid obvious what the situation is but I thought I'd prompt the debate.
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Notoriety
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(Original post by DuckDodgers)
I'm not actually considering it but yes, as the interviewer explained, there is a duty to turn up. It's a six-month role working full-time hours. It's not merely shadowing as I would be the only marketing role in the company - the current marketing person is leaving.
The distinction lies mainly in whether you are considered to be shadowing. This is shown in the Gov doc on NMW.

Spoiler:
Show
"You will not get the National Minimum Wage or National Living Wage if you’re:

a student doing work experience as part of a higher or further education course
of compulsory school age
a volunteer or doing voluntary work
on a government or European programme
work shadowing"


IDS says: NMW for interns depends upon "whether there is a contract or other arrangement entitling him or her to monetary payment or benefits in kind (which might include the promise of future work but not the reimbursement of expenses) and whether there is a contractual obligation on the individual to perform the work and in return an obligation on the employer to provide the work."

Contract is important. It means that you both bring something of value to the party; they give you training and money and you provide your services. I think that's why there is such a focus on shadowing versus doing actual work, i.e. providing services.

If you are there to complete the task of simply providing marketing services, without supervision, it might be difficult to describe you as a non-worker.
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DuckDodgers
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It is very much a non-shadow position from the description offered to me so yes, I don't think the term non-worker applies here.

Edit: Thread wasn't meant to be about this job in particular. If he gets back in touch I'll let him know that I think they're much better off with a student - somebody who will actually benefit from the experience and who can afford not to be paid much.
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ajj2000
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Is this for a year in industry placement?
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DuckDodgers
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ajj2000 No, I'm a graduate.
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marinade
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Power imbalance.

If you want to be bored on a small area of the specifics, some regard South East Sheffield Citizens Advice Bureau v Grayson (2004), as an important case on volunteers. https://www.bailii.org/cgi-bin/forma...3_03_1711.html if you are even more bored Melhuish followed but lists relevant caselaw in a more technical way https://www.bailii.org/cgi-bin/forma...0_04_2405.html

This is mostly followed in the charity sector where the pop law office version of it is regarded as gospel. Often people will quote snippets of it not realising where it's come from. Consequences are that people keep on banging on about focusing on language such as 'expectations', that the paying of reasonable expenses is more or less settled as being part of a relationship that is voluntary etc.

The agreement is taken as a whole to try and determine the 'nature of the relationship'.
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