With internships lasting anywhere from a week to a year, it is only natural for you to wonder about whether you’ll get paid during this period especially if you score a longer one. Yet, frustratingly answering this question isn’t as simple as you think.

You see, while UK labour laws dictate that employers should pay all of their workers, for interns, getting paid will depend on how you have been classified on their system.

For instance, if an employer chooses to classify you (the intern) as a student, then they can technically get away with not paying you – ouch! Yet it is perfectly legal.

For this reason, it is essential that you define your role and payment terms before you accept the internship so you don’t find yourself struggling to pay your rent or mortgage because you’ve trapped into an internship without pay (but that is monopolising all of your time).

Are there other exceptions?

Yes there are some…

For example, employers will have to pay you at least the national minimum wage if: you’ve got a verbal or written contract stating that they will pay you, you’ve had to go into work on days when you didn’t want to/weren’t contracted to, or you’ve been promised a future work contract (after the completion of your university course, online course or internship).

PLEASE NOTE:  even with the exceptions above, employers DON’T have to pay you in the following scenarios:

  • If your internship is part of a UK higher education course e.g. part of your uni degree;
  • If you’re receiving a stipend from a charity that covers your food or travel;
  • If you’re shadowing one of their employees and not technically performing any work of your own for them.

What does this mean for you?

If you’re lucky enough to get an internship that will be paid, then brilliant. You can have the dual satisfaction of acquiring much needed work experience plus some pay to support yourself. However, if you’re offered a long term internship with no pay, then you need to consider if you can confidently do this and survive financially.

Can your parents or partner afford to support you while you complete this internship? Can you feasibly work elsewhere without it interfering with your studies or the actual internship? What is important is that you don’t stretch yourself too thin just so you can gain more experience in your chosen field. For that reason, you need to sit down, look at the bigger picture and determine if it is worth the effort. Likewise, you should utilise your contacts as well as internship websites to increase your odds of finding an internship that will treat you like a paid employee and not a student.

To learn more about how to improve your employability and make your CV look even more appealing, visit our website.

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