Internships and the law

The speed at which internships have become common practice means that legislation has yet to catch up, leaving many organisations and individuals confused about the status of interns in employment law.

The fact that there is no legal definition of an internship does not help matters, nor does the fact that the arts sector has a particularly high rate of ‘precarious’ employment with much of the workforce employed on a freelance or fixed-term basis.

In order to protect themselves and their workers, organisations should understand that the issue of whether or not an intern is entitled to pay is not the legal ‘grey-area’ many believe it to be. An individual’s right to receive the National Minimum Wage is not dictated by their job title – if someone is fulfilling the role of a worker, for an organisation that is not permitted to take on volunteers and voluntary workers, then they should almost always be paid (there are a few minor exceptions to this which you will find more information about in our internships glossary). In this section, a specialist in employment law clarifies some common misconceptions around internships with the aim of demystifying where interns sit within the law.

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