An intern’s rights depend on their employment status. If an intern is classed as a worker, then they’re normally due the National Minimum Wage.
Internships are sometimes called work placements or work experience. These terms have no legal status on their own. The rights they have depend on their employment status and whether they’re classed as:
If an intern does regular paid work for an employer, they may qualify as an employee and be eligible for employment rights.
Rights to the National Minimum Wage
An intern is entitled to the National Minimum Wage if they count as a worker.
Employers cannot avoid paying the National Minimum Wage if it’s due by:
- saying or stating that it does not apply
- making a written agreement saying someone is not a worker or that they’re a volunteer
Promise of future work
An intern is classed as a worker and is due the National Minimum Wage if they’re promised a contract of future work.
When interns are not due the National Minimum Wage
Students required to do an internship for less than one year as part of a UK-based further or higher education course are not entitled to the National Minimum Wage.
School work experience placements
Work experience students of compulsory school age are not entitled to the National Minimum Wage.
Workers are not entitled to the minimum wage if both of the following apply:
- they’re working for a charity, voluntary organisation, associated fund raising body or a statutory body
- they do not get paid, except for limited benefits (for example reasonable travel or lunch expenses)
The employer does not have to pay the minimum wage if an internship only involves shadowing an employee, meaning no work is carried out by the intern and they are only observing.
To get advice on pay and work rights, contact the Acas helpline.
To report problems with working hours or the minimum wage, fill in a pay and work rights complaints form.