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 can’t avoid paying the National Minimum Wage if it’s due by:

  • saying or stating that it doesn’t apply
  • making a written agreement saying someone isn’t 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 aren’t due the National Minimum Wage

Student internships

Students required to do an internship for less than 1 year as part of a UK-based further or higher education course aren’t entitled to the National Minimum Wage.

School work experience placements

Work experience students of compulsory school age, ie under 16, aren’t entitled to the minimum wage.

Voluntary workers

Workers aren’t 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 don’t get paid, except for limited benefits (eg reasonable travel or lunch expenses)

Work shadowing

The employer doesn’t have to pay the minimum wage if an internship only involves shadowing an employee, ie no work is carried out by the intern and they are only observing.

Make a complaint

Contact the Pay and Work Rights Helpline to make a complaint or get further advice.

Pay and Work Rights Helpline
Enquiry form
Complaint form
Telephone: 0800 917 2368
Textphone: 0800 121 4042
Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm
Saturday, 9am to 1pm
Find out about call charges

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