HMRC will investigate firms advertising for interns - to ensure they pay minimum wage

Enforcement action taken against two employers not paying minimum wage during London Fashion Week

Interns are to get more help and information to ensure they're paid for the work they do, the Government has announced.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills will crack down on unfair practises from employers, and has released guidance for young people, in an effort to protect their legal right to fair play.

Revenue and Customs, meanwhile, has promised to target 200 employers advertising for interns to make sure they are paying the correct minimum wage rate.

The move is part of an initiative to ensure interns understand that they have the right to be paid for the work they do, and where to go if they feel they are being exploited.

HMRC, which enforces the minimum wage, will contact 200 employers who have recently advertised for interns as well as unpaid work ahead of checks officials plan to make.

Enforcement action was taken against two employers not paying the minimum wage during London Fashion Week, it was revealed. Unpaid wages were repaid to both workers involved.

Jo Swinson, the employment relations minister, said: "Leaving education and getting a job for the first time can be daunting for any young person. Internships can provide an important first step and are often a valuable way of helping young people start work. They should be open to everyone in a fair and transparent way.

"To do this, we have to give young people the information and support they need so they are less likely to be exploited.

"Not paying the national minimum wage is illegal and if an employer breaks the law, government will take tough action. Already this year HMRC has issued penalties to 466 employers. Anyone considered a worker under the law should be paid at least the minimum wage, whether they are an intern, or someone on work experience."

A spokesperson for Unite, a union which has long campaigned for fair pay for interns, told The Independent that he was "pleased that the taxman is taking action on this issue".

Unite has also given evidence to the Low Pay Commission, claiming that more than a third of the UK's top 50 charity employers are signing up unpaid interns.

“Many of these charities are multimillion pound enterprises that can well afford to pay," said Sally Kosky, their charities spokesperson. "Writing to the HMRC is next step in our campaign to stop these exploitative charities trading on the goodwill and compassionate nature of young people."

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