What are your business’s obligations for volunteers, interns and work experience?

With thoughts of summer and placements being planned, it’s time to talk about the volunteers, interns and work experience that you might take on at your businesses. The three groups are very different, with varying employment rights and obligations for you as a business owner or manager.


Internships usually take place as part of further or higher education courses, for graduates and undergraduates. These are very beneficial for the students, who can increase their skills and knowledge from the industry they wish to progress in, as well as gaining some worthwhile general working experience.

These internships can last from a few weeks to a year and are part of a formal structured programme.

Acas states that an intern may have employment rights but this will depend on the employment status, and that interns should be paid at least the National Minimum (or Living) Wage if they are carrying out the role as a worker.

There are some exceptions, including if the interns are voluntary workers, on a sandwich placement that is part of a higher education course and if a student is carrying out work shadowing.

If you promise the intern a contract for future work, they are then classed as a worker and are entitled to certain employment rights, including:

  • the National Minimum (or Living) Wage
  • paid holidays
  • protection against unlawful discrimination
  • protection against unlawful deductions from wages
  • the right not to be treated less favourably for working part-time.


Volunteers carry out unpaid work, usually for a charity or other non-profit organisation.

If your company or organisation uses volunteers, you must ensure that they have access to the right training and development, as well as a role description. It is also beneficial to have a volunteering agreement as an alternative to a contract of employment, defining the basis of their relationship with you.

As volunteers are not classed as workers or employees, they do not get paid or have a contract of employment.

Work Experience

Work experience is generally undertaken by students of compulsory school age, where they spend a short amount of time with an employer to learn directly about work and the working environment. Some tasks may be performed, but usually it’s a chance for students to observe and learn what happens in a normal working day.

Work shadowing is a similar process where students watch someone going about their day-to-day job. This can be from a couple of days to a few weeks. Again, this observing and learning helps them gain an understanding of the role, which is particularly important if they are considering future careers.

When work experience students and those that are work shadowing are of compulsory school age, they are not eligible for National Minimum Wage or entitled to employment rights as a worker. This also applies to those in further or higher education, if the placement doesn’t exceed one year, and participants in government schemes or programmes to provide training and work experience.

If you’d like to know more about your obligations as a business for volunteers, interns and those on work experience, contact me today.


What do you need to know about agency workers?

If you employ workers from an agency, they are entitled to certain employment rights. Do you know if you are treating your agency workers correctly? What do you need to know about the employment rights of agency workers?

As an employer, you need to be aware of the Agency Worker Regulations. These regulations give agency workers the entitlement to the same or no less favourable treatment as comparable employees with respect to basic employment and working conditions, if and when they complete a qualifying period of 12 weeks in a particular job.

What are Agency Workers?

The regulations that cover agency workers apply to those workers supplied by a temporary work agency to an employer/hirer (ie your business). This includes most agency workers that people refer to as ‘temps’ and those supplied via intermediaries.

Agency workers, in these regulations, are not self-employed, individuals working through their own limited liability company, or individuals working on managed service contracts.

What rights do Agency Workers have when they start employment?

From their first day at work, an agency worker will be entitled to the same access to facilities such as staff canteens, childcare and transport as other employees, and to be informed about job vacancies. They are also entitled to certain employment rights such as national minimum wage.

After the 12-week qualifying period, an agency worker will be entitled to the same basic conditions of employment as if they had been directly employed by you. This includes bonuses, commissions and holiday pay, but does not include redundancy pay, contractual sick pay, and maternity, paternity or adoption pay. They are also entitled to working time rights, such as annual leave.

What other employment rights are Agency Workers entitled to?

  • rest breaks and limits on working time
  • the National Minimum Wage
  • no unlawful deductions from wages
  • discrimination rights under the Equality Act 2010
  • health and safety at work.

If you employ agency workers, or are thinking about employing agency workers and want to know more about the regulations, talk to us today.

How will the National Living Wage affect my business?

With the new mandatory National Living Wage (NLW) for workers aged 25 and above set to come into force from April 2016, have you prepared for the changes? If your business is affected, it could impact on more areas than purely the cost of paying your staff enough to meet the NLW target. It could also affect how you pay your staff, employee morale, employment law, internal communications and recruitment.

How does the National Living Wage work with the National Minimum Wage?

The adult National Minimum Wage (NMW) rate is currently £6.70 per hour. From 1st April 2016, the National Living Wage will come into effect on top of the NMW, taking the national living wage to £7.20 for those who are 25 and over.

The NMW still applies to those under 25 years old, but without the NLW premium.

How does this affect my business?

With the changes due to affect at least 20% of businesses (November 2015 report from the Resolution Foundation and the CIPD, polling 1,037 employers), you need to consider the implications of the NLW wage now.

There will be extra costs generated by NLW implementation, payroll costs and forecasting, and a considerable impact on your recruitment policies. You may need to:

  • Cut back on discretionary payroll costs, such as bonuses and overtime,
  • Consider not filling vacancies, and reducing how many people you need to hire,
  • Boost productivity and efficiency in your employees.

However, there will also be implications for employment law for those looking at these areas to cope with the extra financial strain of the NLW. If you are looking at reducing your workforce through redundancies, this needs to be considered carefully (look at my previous blog post on Redundancies for more information). Focusing on hiring people under 25 to reduce costs could also lead to age discrimination claims so clear HR/recruitment policies must be in place.

What next for my business?

With the implementation date fast approaching, you need to consider the impact of the National Living Wage now. Will it affect your business? How will you cope with the associated costs? Have you checked and revised your HR Policies and any employment law issues?

To find out more about how the NLW could affect your business, contact me today.

More information about NLW

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