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Paying an Intern

Saturday, December 17, 2011 9:54:47 AM

There is a great deal of confusion arising over whether an intern or work experience student should be paid. This has largely stemmed from work experience placements being historically gained through family contacts, which explains why there is no specific law relating to paying interns, and has been highlighted recently by the Government’s publicised split over reimbursing interns.


Put simply, the law states that anybody who undertakes ‘work’ for a company deserves payment at a minimum rate of £6.08 per hour if they are aged at or over 21 years old or at £4.98 per hour if aged between 18-20 years old. As a result, we provide each of our clients with this and other supportive information when they decide to proceed with their recruitment.


There are a couple of common exceptions to this rule, being:


·         The intern is working for a charity.

·         The intern is being provided with training. For example, they are undertaking the placement as part of their educational studies.

·         The intern is being paid solely by commission; whereby they must be set up as a separate entity to the company and registered as self-employed.


The confusion around the payment of interns and work experience students is based upon the HMRC’s definition of what constitutes ‘work’. Essentially, if you are based in the UK and a private company requires you to undertake a list of duties and binds you to set working hours then you should be paid.  

Fundamentally, if a company wishes to attract the best candidates into their business; bringing with them their skills and talents that a business could profit upon, then it does not make commercial sense to limit applications to the few who can afford to work in an unpaid placement.


If you would like further clarification on the legislation, contact us via the telephone (020 7199 0021) or email us for a copy of the legislation through