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Gloucestershire Business News

Government takes action on unpaid internships

The government is taking action to stamp out illegal unpaid internships.

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has written to more than 500 firms over the last three months reminding them that interns classed as workers must be paid the minimum wage.

The BBC has reported that the the government also says it will ask HMRC to focus minimum wage enforcement work on firms using unpaid interns.

The details were contained in the Taylor Review into working practices, published last year, which concentrated particularly on the so-called gig economy of part-time and flexible workers. However, it also highlighted the issue of unpaid internships.

It said the government should ensure that "exploitative unpaid internships which damage social mobility in the UK, are stamped out", said the BBC.

In its response released earlier this week, the government said it accepted the recommendations of the review.

It said exploitative unpaid internships should not exist and it would work to eradicate them.

According to the law, interns who are classed as workers must be paid at least the National Minimum Wage or the National Living Wage.

A worker might be someone who has a contract or is subject to sanctions if they do not turn up for work.

Genuine volunteers are not entitled to the minimum wage.

Last month the Sutton Trust charity estimated that 40% of 70,000 internships undertaken annually were unpaid. It backed cross-party calls to ban unpaid internships over a month long, the BBC reported.

Punchline says: "There's a difference between work experience and internships. People can get experience that they would never ever have. But there comes a tipping point with internships when companies can take advantage. There's a bit of a fine line between the two. If the government comes down really hard on it, businesses won't offer them."

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