Written by Alyssa Walker

If you're an unpaid intern in the UK, your fortunes may soon be on the rise.

The UK's tax, payment, and customs authority, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), started cracking down on companies that don't pay their interns.

They're expected to target sectors in the media, performing arts, law, and accountancy--all of which have a reputation for using unpaid interns. 

The authority will also issue guidelines to employers so that they know when they have a legal obligation to hire interns.

According to the Sutton Trust Mobility Charity, the UK hosts about 70,000 interns per year and estimates that of 10,000 graduates who intern for six months after graduates, 20 percent are unpaid. 

Since minimum wage legislation makes most unpaid internships illegal, the companies failing to pay interns are in violation--but the government has done nothing about it, until now.

The HMRC aims to make it easier to report unpaid internships and to facilitate tougher penalties for companies in violation of the law. 

In an article in The Guardian, business minister, Andrew Griffiths, said,“Employing unpaid interns as workers to avoid paying the national minimum wage is against the law and exploitative. No one should feel like they have to work for free to get the skills and experience they need to get ahead.

“That’s why over the last three months, government enforcement teams have been targeting employers advertising for unpaid interns, reminding them of the law and the consequences of breaking it.”

Many are hopeful that the new changes brought about by the HMRC will prevent future violations from happening--and will allow interns to earn their rightful pay.

Learn more about studying in the UK

Alyssa Walker is a freelance writer, educator, and nonprofit consultant. She lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with her family.
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