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Govt to get tough on companies using unpaid interns

DESK BOUND: Many young take up unpaid work to enhance job prospects (PA)

THE DEBATE over the exploitation of interns has resurfaced after Revenue and Customs’ pledged to crackdown on companies using free labour.

The move is part of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills' initiative to ensure interns understand their rights to be paid for the work they do, and where to turn for help and support.

HMRC, which enforces the minimum wage, has promised to contact 200 employers who have recently advertised for interns as well as unpaid work to ensure they paying the correct wage.

It also revealed that two employers at London Fashion Week were not paying their workers enough.

Jo Swinson, the employment 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."

She added: “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.”

The Unite union that has 60,000 members in the not-for-profit sector, has 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.

The union's national officer Sally Kosky said: “Many of these charities are multimillion pound enterprises that can well afford to pay.

"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."

She added: “The HMRC is charged with enforcing the NMW and we would urge them to take action where it is clear that young people doing an unpaid intern role are actually doing a proper job of work and should be paid accordingly.”

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