Helen Hughes Accountancy | HMRC Investigate Unpaid Internships
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HMRC Investigate Unpaid Internships

17 Apr HMRC Investigate Unpaid Internships

The once American practice of offering unpaid internships for individuals to gain useful work experience is being investigated by the HMRC as contravening the national minimum wage.

HMRC has been sent details of 100 companies accused of illegally using unpaid interns which the government has said will be used to assess a possible investigation into non-compliance with national minimum wage legislation.

The list, which is said to include some ‘big household names’ was compiled by campaign group Intern Aware and passed to HMRC by Jo Swinson, minister for employment relations and consumer affairs.

Swinson described the use of unpaid interns as a ‘significant problem’, and that more should be done to enforce the legislation in this area.

Swinson commented:

‘We have got to change attitudes and make sure companies realise it is not appropriate. Where there is a job that needs doing, then it needs to be treated as a job and not be done be someone who is not being paid. This attacks the national minimum wage.’

In a letter to Intern Aware, Swinson said that the list of employers would be treated as intelligence by HMRC and used to identify sectors where there was a higher likelihood of non-compliance.

As well as sectors that are normally associated with internships, such as fashion, PR and the media, Intern Aware’s list also includes more unusual areas like accountancy, architecture and retail.

Some of the companies were advertising for internships that were clearly job functions, like ‘administrative internships’, the group said.

Last year HMRC action resulted in payment of £4m of wages arrears for 26,500 individuals who were either underpaid or paid no wage at all, up from £3.6m in the previous year.

Source: CCH Online 15th April 2013