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Internships Aug 2013

Strangely there is no legal definition of internship despite the fact that over the last few years there has been a significant rise in their usage. Organisations using interns or volunteers need to be careful how they treat individuals, as legal status determines the rights the individuals have.

The first key issue to bear in mind is that no matter what you call the position in writing, if you treat them in a specific way it is entirely possible that a court will decide that they are something completely different.

Key issues taken from recent cases, many ironically involving the Citizen’s Advice Bureau, are as follows:

• Avoid making payments that could be considered "wages". If you are paying expenses make sure they are specific and attributable to actual payments the intern has made.

• Remove any perks that could be seen as consideration for the services provided.

• Give the intern the freedom to chose when they work.

• Avoid language that tends to suggest a legal arrangement such as usual hours and suggested duties.

Particular problems have arisen around the National Minimum Wage. Governmental guidance stresses that calling someone "unpaid" or "volunteer" does not prevent them from qualifying for NMW if they are, in reality, a worker. Work placements of less than one year undertaken by those of compulsory school age or further education students are specifically exempt.

Amanda Finn can be contacted at