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Interns ‘forced to wait months’ for minimum wage inquiries

by on June 8, 2015

Over the weekend, this article in The Observer highlighted what’s been happening (or perhaps, not happening) regarding HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) investigations into complaints by interns that they have not been paid the minimum wage for proper work. The law provides that anyone who is “working” must be paid the national minimum wage. This is £6.50 an hour for anyone aged 21 or over. HMRC are responsible for enforcing this law.

Many interns are ‘younger workers’ and the campaigning website Graduate Fog has been involved in bringing this story to media attention, as here, focusing on the exploitative aspects of this in respect of young workers. One of the claims is that HMRC is taking up to 14 months before it even starts to question the employer organizations.

There are suggestions (denied by HMRC) that it has changed its policy by focusing only on cases where at least some money was paid. But the annual report of the Low Pay Commission concludes “This is a facet of the NMW that remains poorly understood. Moreover, because the harm of an agreement to work unpaid is borne by candidates unable to take up a role rather than just the worker concerned, there is a risk such cases will get deprioritised in an enforcement model that is focused on recovering lost wages.

Is this another example of how the burden (financial and evidential) is firmly on the individual to establish wrong-doing, as in pursuing claims for age discrimination (as discussed in this post on the blog last month)?

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