MORE than 100 of Britain's largest employers, including Barclays, Tesco and BP, have joined Nick Clegg's campaign to end Britain's 'it's who you know' culture in the workforce.
Under the scheme the practice of unpaid internships or work experience will be curbed by employers to open up their recruitment processes and offer financial support to their interns. Employers backing the scheme have agreed to:
Advertise work experience opportunities in schools and online
Make access to internships and work experience placements open and transparent
Pay interns a wage, reimburse their expenses or provide accommodation
Ensure application forms do not screen out applicants on the basis of education or ethnicity; and
Visit schools and colleges to talk about their work and to take part in mentoring schemes.
The aim of the scheme is to increase prospects for young people from modest backgrounds who lack connections. When engaging interns, however, it is important to consider your legal obligations.
Q. What legal rights do interns have? The legal status of interns is not clear cut. Consideration needs to be given to the situation on the ground, which determines the intern’s rights. Where there is a contractual obligation on the business to provide work and on the intern to carry it out personally, the intern may be an employee or a worker. If so they will have the right to receive the national minimum wage (NMW), paid holiday, rest breaks and protection in respect of whistleblowing.
Q. Are interns entitled to the NMW? An employer is required to pay the NMW to all workers. There are exceptions for school age children, those on a work placement as part of their education and volunteers for charity. If none of those apply, it is important to consider whether an intern is a worker or employee.
The way “work” is defined by the NMW and the regulations made under that Act, means that an internship which involves “work shadowing” and no work being performed will not generally qualify for the NMW unless the internship may lead to an offer of permanent or paid work on completion.
:: Glenn Calvert, head of employment at leading law firm, Dickinson Dees.