Summer Intern Employment Laws and Rights

Employers can offer summer internships of work experience placements but they may assume that there are no intern employment laws associated with these types of contracts. Taking interns on board is actually more of a concept than a legal concept. Intern employment laws will depend on the type of contract they have and if they are considered as an employee, a worker or a volunteer.

National Minimum Wage

Interns are entitled to the National Minimum Wage (NMW) if they are classified as workers. Making a written statement implying that someone is a volunteer and not a worker does not allow employers to avoid paying NMW.

If the interns are promised a contract of future work, then they qualify as workers and are entitled to the National Minimum Wage.

Intern Employment Laws and their Rights

Students may need to participate in an internship programme as part of their course, these can last for a few weeks, generally during summer holidays. Normally interns classified as workers will be entitled to NMW but also:

  • Paid Holidays
  • Protection against unlawful discrimination
  • Protection against unlawful wages deduction
  • Protection against unfavourable treatment for being part-time

There are some exceptions where interns are not entitled to be paid the NMW:

  • Voluntary workers
  • Work placements for students as a part of their course
  • School work experience placements (i.e. under 16)
  • Work shadowing

It’s very important for businesses to be aware which category their interns fall under and which intern employment laws apply.


Interns can be classified as volunteers if they carry out unpaid work for a charitable organisation or fundraising body. Volunteers cannot be classified as workers so are not entitled to the NMW under intern employment laws. They do not get paid except for lunch or travel expenses.

Work Experience

Work experience is generally aimed at individuals of compulsory school age and allows them to learn about the working environment by spending some time with an employer. Although they might perform some tasks that workers would do, they do not have workers’ employment rights.

If you’re looking to set up an internship programme or hire staff on fixed-term contracts, don’t hesitate to get in touch! We can help you navigate the subtleties of intern employment laws and make sure you define roles and jobs well before hiring.

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