HMRC has announced that it will be launching an initiative to provide guidance for young people in an effort to strengthen their certainty about pay rights.
In a statement, the government announced the measures as a joint venture between HMRC and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), saying that it would be cracking down on “rogue employers” that exploit interns.
Leading the initiative, employment minister Jo Swinson said, “Not paying the national minimum wage (NMW) is illegal and if an employer breaks the law, government will take tough action. Already this year HMRC has issued penalties to 466 employers.
“Anyone considered a worker under the law should be paid at least the minimum wage, whether they are an intern, or someone on work experience.”
Swinson also announced HMRC’s intention to send targeted letters to employers advertising for internships, reminding them of the NMW, adding “By raising awareness of NMW rates and the law we will make sure people play by the rules and treat their workers fairly.”
The debate on internships comes after former Conservative prime minister Sir John Major said there was a “collapse in social mobility”, with many only being able to gain valuable industry experience through unpaid internships if they had the right access to funding from their parents.
This initiative follows a campaign by Labour leader Ed Miliband to encourage employers to pay their workers fairly after he announced his intentions to introduce tax breaks to businesses so that they could afford to pay the living wage if elected at the 2015 general election.