Are interns employees?

So you have this great idea and there are not enough hours in the day to get it developed and launched. It’s a ruthless job market out there and there are lots of good people who have recently been made redundant. You could probably find someone willing to help you with your project for little, if any, salary.

Indeed, you would be doing them a favour as no one wants an awkward gap on their CV, or maybe helping you out in this way could be the stepping stone they need for greater things. So you reach out through your social network, find someone you like and offer them work experience, an internship or just ask them to help.

Have you just employed someone without knowing it?

Recent developments suggest that there is a growing risk of falling foul of employment laws when using interns.

Are interns employees?

Much of the time, although they are intended not to be, interns are in fact employees or they have most of the rights associated with a contract of employment.

Traditionally work experience has involved students shadowing you or your colleagues for short periods of time but not actually working.

Internships (a phrase imported from the United States) have been more formal and have involved proper work, often being undertaken by university students looking to break into a particular area after finishing their studies or even as part of a course of study. Usually interns have been unpaid.

There is no legal definition of an intern in the UK. However, although carefully drafted documentation might help avoid an intern falling within the strict legal definition of an employee, much employment-related legislation is drafted in such a way that it will apply to “workers” working on any basis other than as a genuinely self employed individual.

I will look at how you should form a contract for interns next week.

Related Topic: Working for someone on a self employed basis

David Jepps is a member of the Keystone Employment Law team.

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