Last weekend the Guardian’s weekend magazine had an article on internships written by those young people who have suffered degrading treatment as they attempt to get into their chosen profession. It nearly made me weep. Recently a young man died following working very long hours during an internship casting welcome attention to the hours people are working to try and get a foothold into their chosen career. Surely the tide is turning against such exploitation?
2013 has been the year when the penny has finally dropped for some that there are big legal implications of taking on interns. HMRC has recently indicated that it will be looking closely at whether employers are avoiding paying the minimum wage for work experience positions that amount to little more than an unpaid job. If the employer has been getting value out of the person (as opposed to genuine work shadowing and learning of the kind I took part in as a legal student shadowing barristers and solicitors) then the employer is likely to be in trouble.
Furthermore the employer has to think about the Working Time Regulations: rest breaks and holidays will apply just as much as for all other workers. The further potential area for employers to become unstuck is autoenrolment in pensions – the definition used in the legislation is to do with ‘job holders’. This is likely to capture interns, especially over the age of 22. Maybe the thought of being fined susbtantial sums by HMRC and the Pensions Regulator will finally put an end to these offensive and exploitative practices?