Introduction to this document

Offer of voluntary internship letter

Our offer of voluntary internship is for use where you’re offering a work shadowing placement in which the intern is there to observe what happens in the workplace but carries out no work. It’s not, however, suitable where the intern is, in reality, either a worker or an employee.

National Minimum Wage

Internships are temporary work experience placements. They enable the intern to gain valuable training and experience in their chosen field. They originated in the US, where employment rights are minimal. However, in the UK, the legal position is different. 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. The key issue here is whether or not 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 perform work for the business personally, the definition is likely to be satisfied and they will be entitled to the NMW. Likewise, a placement that may lead to an offer of permanent, paid work could result in the intern being deemed to be a worker, because the promise of paid work is a benefit for the work undertaken by the intern. However, if the intern is only observing or shadowing another employee in order to gain experience of the working environment, without actually undertaking any work themselves (performing very basic tasks under supervision should still be acceptable), they are unlikely to be a worker and will not be entitled to the NMW. Our Offer of Voluntary Internship Letter is drafted on the basis that what is being offered is an informal work shadowing placement only and so the individual will not be entitled to the NMW. You must then ensure that they have no personal responsibility within the business, are not required to deal directly with clients and are placed under no obligation to perform any work on an unsupervised basis. 

Employment status

If an intern does satisfy the definition of a worker, they will also benefit from a number of other employment rights, including protection from unlawful discrimination, rights relating to paid annual leave, rest breaks and maximum working hours and (from 6 April 2020) the right to be given a written statement of employment particulars not later than the beginning of their engagement. In addition, depending on the realities of the working relationship, they could also satisfy the definition of an employee working under a contract of employment, with all the associated employment law rights and protections that apply. If the intern is neither a worker nor an employee, they will be a volunteer and our letter assumes this is the position. A volunteer will undertake work for no financial reward (other than reasonable expenses) and they don’t have to turn up if they don’t want to.

Other issues

Our letter covers other important matters such as health and safety, company property, confidentiality, intellectual property and delivery up of documents 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. Plus, unlike employees, intellectual property rights created by interns won’t automatically vest in the business so our letter ensures this will happen as a matter of agreement. 


offer of voluntary internship letter

07 Dec 2012
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