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F YOU, PAY ME: Really Know Your Interning Rights

Students and Grads — you NEED to know your rights when it comes to interning. I was listening to a segment on Radio 4's Money Box last week (something you all need to get on), called 'Concern Over Increase in Unpaid Internships'. It dawned on me that you might think you kinda know the legalities but it's integral to REALLY know. I also found out some new news on my quest — did you know it is possible to get an employer to BACK PAY you for up to six years after an illegal unpaid internship?! More on this below...

Equally, I get DM's on the regular from students and Grads asking: 'is this right? Isn't it illegal to not pay me?!'. If you are a Grad — YES. Most recently, someone reached out to me and told me that popular clothing brand, Never Fully Dressed, wanted to hire them FULL TIME, UNPAID — even though they knew they were a Grad. One more time...

*** IF YOU ARE A GRAD, IT'S ILLEGAL NOT TO PAY YOU ***

So how can brands still get away with it? Because people are still taking on unpaid internships and the worst bit — the law isn't enforced as much as it should be. F YOU HMRC. So what can you do? Know your rights, say no, get advice, report and air the brands' dirty laundry on social. More on this below...

Scarily, with COVID there are even more Grads desperately needing experience and companies having to cut their budgets. This, in turn, opens up the floor for even more unpaid internships being taken on and created. I can understand the economic dilemma you are all facing, but I want to equip you with your rights so you can go in armed to any situation.

THESE ARE YOUR RIGHTS...

Firstly, this is what you need to remember:

  • If you are a Grad you are classed as a 'worker' therefor you are entitled to NMW. To know what the NMW rates are, check them out here. For any brands that don't pay at least the minimum wage — they are breaking the Minimum Wage Act.

What can you do about it?

  • Need advice about a current potential employe? Contact ACAS via the phone, they offer 24/7 free Employment Law support
  • Contact HMRC  — HMRC are heavily reliant on public complaints, so get on it honeys!!! Blow up the phone to HMRC and fill in this complaints form here. Annoyingly, the reason the problem gets worse year-on-year is that HMRC is lax. If they actually took action, brands may listen. But don't let that stop you.
  • Social Media is SUCH a powerful tool now. Whether you have 300 or 30k followers — call out these brands on your story, your Twitter and tag them. They might see, get embarrassed and they might listen. POWER IN NUMBERS.

Unfortunately, brands don't have to pay you if:

  • You are a student and the internship is part of your course (such as a sandwich year, placement or work experience)
  • You are 'shadowing' a person or brand (shadowing means literally watching/following. If you are not adding direct value to the brand this can be classed as 'shadowing')

You are classed as a 'worker' and should be PAID if:

  • You are doing work that benefits the business, as opposed to 'shadowing'
  • If you have a contract stating employment terms such as your working hours

Did you know?

  • You can actually still get paid for an illegally unpaid internship you did up to six years ago. I KNOW WTF. Calculate what you are owed, contact the employer and ask for back pay — if no response you can you go to HMRC and the courts. 
MEMBER FAQ'S

1. 'What do I do if I get the role and then find out it's UNPAID?'

Do not be afraid to decline! I know you don't want to lose the op — but you HAVE to do what is right for you. If you are still happy to take it on, then that is down to you. If you really don't want to — say NO. If you are happy to email back a reply declining, amazing! I am proud of you! If you need help with that contact ACAS, ask your parents, tutor or me. Paid opportunities WILL come and it will be so worth it.

2. 'What do I do if I am in an internship that's UNPAID and want to leave?'

Gather information — are the other interns being paid? Try and find out as you need to understand where you sit and when the company sits. Re-read this article and other resources to gather as much info to arm yourself with and talk to your manager. If they say no to paying you and you are within your rights — walk out that door Honey. You will not be penalised.

3. 'Would walking out damage my career?'

No! Always do it politely and professionally. First talk to your employer or manager (like the above) and then make your plan. If a new employer (which WILL be paying you) asks about the role, be 100% honest. They will respect your honesty and professionalism. 

4. 'What if I have signed a contract, knowing it's UNPAID? I am a Grad and I am entitled to be paid'

It doesn't matter. It is still illegal and signing a contract does not make this suddenly compliant to Miniman Wage Act. Leave the role if you are in it or don't take the role. IF you would like advice/support, contact HMRC and speak to an advisor at ACAS 

RESOURCES TO ALSO HELP YOUR 'F YOU, PAY ME' QUEST:

Did this help Honey?

If not, just post your question in the FACEBOOK GROUP and we will answer it within 24 hours. Better yet — you may even get other members responding with their prime knowledge!

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