Internships offer a good deal to both employer and intern. For the latter there is the opportunity to gain the experience required before you get that first job. Indeed an intern who performs well may get that first job. The employer gets to run the rule over potential recruits and may benefit economically from the committed labours of the intern. But matters do not always end well as evidenced recently by the tragic death of Moritz Erhardt when working as in intern for Merrill Lynch. The inquest held that his fatal epilepsy attack may well have been triggered by overwork.
So, what are the Health and Safety Obligations of employers towards their interns which depends in part upon their legal status – are they employees or some other protected class of worker? Furthermore there is the question of whether interns are workers for the National Minimum Wage Legislation. Failure to pay the NMW when due can result in fines and in November HMRC announced that it was targeting long term unpaid internship. It plans to fine offenders £5,000 and to “name and shame”.
Finally, does discrimination law apply so as to create legal risk in the selection of interns?
And finally how can internships can be structured so as to minimize that risk?
The Employment Team at 36 Bedford Row will be presenting on these issues to the Health and Well Being at Work Conference at the Birmingham NEC on 4th and 5th March 2014.