Introduction to this document

Offer of paid internship letter

Our offer of paid internship letter is for use where you’re offering paid work experience when the intern is a worker but isn’t an employee. It’s not suitable where the intern is, in reality, an employee. At the other end of the scale, if all that you’re offering is a simple work shadowing placement, that can usually be voluntary, i.e. unpaid.

What are internships?

Internships are temporary work experience placements, normally aimed at young people who have little prior work experience and who are trying to break into a particular business sector. They enable the intern to gain valuable training and experience in their chosen profession. They originated in the US, where employment rights are minimal. In the UK the legal position is different and so it’s essential to determine the employment status of your intern. Internships are normally short term, lasting anything from a week to several months. You can decide the duration, but it’s better to fix this at the outset and our Offer of Paid Internship Letter assumes the internship will be for a fixed term.

National minimum wage

An internship might be offered on a paid or unpaid basis. You must, however, ensure you comply with your obligations under the National Minimum Wage Act 1998 if the intern falls within the statutory definition of a “worker”. A worker is any person who works under a contract of employment or any other contract, whether express or implied, and whether oral or in writing, whereby the individual “undertakes to do or perform personally any work or services for another party to the contract whose status is not … that of a client or customer of any profession or business undertaking carried on by the individual”. Thus, where the intern is contractually obliged to personally perform work for your business, the definition is likely to be satisfied and they’ll be entitled to the national minimum wage (NMW), or national living wage (NLW). However, if the intern is only informally observing or shadowing another employee to gain experience of the working environment, without undertaking any work themselves, they’re unlikely to be a worker and so won’t be entitled to the NMW - see our Offer of Voluntary Internship Letter.

Employment status

If your intern is a worker, they’ll also benefit from a number of other employment rights, including protection from unlawful discrimination, rights relating to paid holiday, rest breaks and maximum working hours and (from 6 April 2020) the right to be given a written statement of employment particulars, that meets the requirements of s.1 Employment Rights Act 1996, not later than the beginning of their engagement. Our letter incorporates those statutory requirements. It is drafted on the basis that the intern is a worker and so will be paid at least the NMW for working during set hours and receive an annual holiday entitlement, pro rata for the period of the internship. Do be aware though that, depending on the realities of the working relationship, the intern could also satisfy the definition of an “employee” working under an employment contract, with all the associated employment law rights and protections that apply. Our letter aims to avoid this by providing you’re under no obligation to give the intern any work and they’re under no obligation to attend work and we’ve included a specific “no employment” provision (but take into account that assessing employment status is a matter of statutory interpretation, with the tribunal looking at the wording of the relevant legislation and taking a purposive approach; it’s not a matter of contractual interpretation). In practice, also ensure you don’t exercise a significant degree of control over what the worker does for you and how they do it.

Other issues

Our letter covers other important matters such as health and safety, company property, confidentiality, intellectual property, data protection and delivery up of documents on termination as it’s still important to ensure you’re protecting your business and your sensitive commercial information on these issues, regardless of the employment status of the intern.