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Unpaid interns and Unpaid Trial Work Periods - latest
The UK government has launched a crackdown on unpaid internships and issued warnings to more than 550 companies about the practice.

Separately Stewart McDonald MP submitted a Private Members’ Bill to Parliament proposing to end the use of unpaid trial shifts.

With regards to internships, HM Revenue & Customs enforcement teams have said that they will be targeting sectors including media, law and accountancy, and will also issue guidance to employers clarifying when they are legally obliged to pay at least the national minimum wage to interns. The government has made it clear that employing unpaid interns as workers (i.e. they are actually doing work, not just shadowing someone) is against the law and exploitative. Such individuals should be paid at the appropriate level under the National Minimum Wage regulations. It has also said that it will review existing policy and consider what other action can be taken if the enforcement crackdown is not effective in changing companies' behaviour.

Meanwhile the Unpaid Trial Work Periods (Prohibition) Bill has not yet finished its second reading in Parliament, but the essence of it is that if an employer asks a prospective employee to undertake a trial period as part of an assessment for employment, then the employer has to: set out how long the period of the trial would be; provide a job description outlining what would be required during the trial period; say how many positions there were on offer; to provide feedback; and let the applicant know what arrangements would be made for notifying him/her of the outcome.

But most importantly – the Bill says that the prospective employee must be paid at least the current rate as set out in the National Minimum Wage Act, even before a contract has been agreed. The idea behind it is to deal with unscrupulous employers who have no intention of making appointments but have unethically been using trial periods as a means of using “free” labour.

Private Members’ Bills often do not get passed, so we will have to wait to hear how this one fares.
Posted on 27 Mar 2018

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