Intern Aware says that a paid internship is usually a short-term period of employment aimed at providing you with professional skills and experience. It is different from a work shadowing scheme where you only observe other people working, and different from volunteering where you choose to give up your time to help a cause or a company [ Making internships work: an interns guide].
You should be treated with exactly the same degree of professionalism and duty of care as regular employees, including access to disciplinary and grievance procedures. You should be given as much responsibility and diversity in your work as possible. Your employer should make sure that you are made to feel part of the organisation and are not treated merely as a visitor. You must be provided with work that develops your skills. Your structured work plan should contribute to your professional and learning objectives and should be open to revision. You should be allowed to attend job interviews or complete study requirements. [Common best practice Code for high quality Internships]
Internships are not:
It is your status that gives you rights at work. You can be an employee or a worker. As an employee you have more rights than a worker. [see Employment Status]
Section 230 (1) Employment Rights Act 1996 (ERA 1996) describes an employee as an individual who has entered into or works under (or, where the employment has ceased, worked under) a contract of employment. A ‘contract of employment’ is a contract of service or apprenticeship, whether express or implied, and (if it is express) whether oral or in writing [ERA 1996 section 230(2)].
If you are employed on a fixed term, you have additional rights under the Fixed-term Employees (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2002 not to be treated less favourably than a comparable permanent employee.
Case law has established that in a valid contract of service you;
Mutuality of obligation means that you HAVE to do the work that your employer tells you to do, and your employer MUST pay you whether or not they give you work to do. In some circumstances there is an obligation on your employer to provide you with work.
You have all the statutory entitlements of an employee including the right not to be unfairly dismissed, to receive redundancy payments, the right to a written statement of particulars of employment as well as maternity and paternity leave and pay. [see EOC Employees Rights]
Section 230(3) ERA 1996 describes a worker as an individual who has entered into or works under a contract of employment, or any other contract. Under this contract, the worker undertakes to personally do or perform any work or services for another party to the contract (your employer). Your employer must not be a client or customer of any profession or business undertaking that you are carrying out and you must not be self-employed (shop workers and betting workers are excluded from this description).
Workers also have protections under employment law and must not;
As a worker intern you have statutory entitlements which include the following;
Intern Aware says that a good internship should include the following:
You are a volunteer if you are under no obligation to work, but you agree to do unpaid work and accept reimbursement of your expenses. You can come and go as you please, whereas interns usually have set working hours and are paid. You are protected from discrimination but are not entitled to the statutory rights that employees and workers have.
The days of the unpaid internship are numbered and there are quite a number of employment tribunal cases where volunteer interns have won their claim to worker status and entitlement to the minimum wage.
As a worker or employee intern, you must be paid at least either the National Minimum Wage or the National Living Wage regardless of your experience or the length of your internship. If your employer is not paying you at these levels contact the Pay and Work Rights Helpline on 0800 917 2368 for advice.
Worksmart – Am I a worker, an employee or self employed?
GOV.UK – Employment Status
Citizens Advice: Rights at work
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