employment lawemployment statusinternswork placements

Samantha Cameron’s popular fashion brand Cefinn, has recently been reported to minimum wage officials following the publication of an advertisement for an unpaid internship.

The advertisement stated that Cefinn was searching for a PR and marketing intern to carry out market research, sample management and production assistance over a 3 month period.  Although the advertisement itself was silent on the issue of remuneration, the Company confirmed that the position would be an unpaid one in a reply to a tweet from a potential applicant – this reply was later deleted.  They were reported by Careers site Graduate Fog, whose founder Tanya de Grunwald expressed concern that unpaid internships such as these can exploit workers and limit the number of potential applicants to those who are in a financial position to work for free.

UK Employment Law clearly states that any person classed as a worker should be paid at least the minimum wage, albeit the definition of a worker can sometimes be difficult to interpret.  Section 230(3) of the Employment Rights Act 1996 (ERA) defines a worker as “an individual who has entered into or works under (or, where the employment has ceased, worked under):

(a) a contract of employment, or

(b) any other contract, whether express or implied and (if it is express) whether oral or in writing, whereby the individual undertakes to do or perform personally any work or services for another party to the contract whose status is not by virtue of the contract that of a client or customer of any profession or business undertaking carried on by the individual”.

The Government has said however, that individuals undertaking internships who are job shadowing, under 16 and carrying out a short period of work experience, or carrying out less than a year’s work as part of a higher education course can be unpaid. In addition, HMRC say that individuals doing a placement on a volunteer basis do not count as workers.

It is therefore the case that there is no steadfast rule to say that all internships must be paid, and we must carefully consider the facts of each individual role/the individual carrying out the role.

Please contact Katharine Kelly on 0151 239 1079 or katharinekelly@canter-law.co.uk should you have any queries regarding worker status and/or internships.