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Updated on 6 April 2024


There are very many different kinds of internship available. You will need to look at the agreement you have with the provider of the internship to see what your status is. You may be employed or be a volunteer, undertaking unpaid work. Interns who are providing services on a voluntary basis should look at our page on volunteering.

a message board with the words 'INTERNS WANTED' pinned to it,  across the desk various stationary can be seen and a clock.
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Interns and the national minimum wage

The first thing you need to establish is the precise nature of your working agreement.

If you are employed or are a ‘worker, then in most cases your employer has to pay you in accordance with national minimum wage (NMW) legislation, which includes the national living wage (NLW). You may be paid more than this, but this is the basic minimum.

Having set hours, an obligation to fulfil those hours and complete tasks, and individual responsibility for work are all aspects that will be taken into consideration when determining if you are employed or are a ‘worker’.

If you are an intern, you may find it useful to read the GOV.UK guidance on the NMW and NLW for organisations who offer work experience, including placements and internships.

If, instead, you are taking part in a government scheme to provide training and work experience, or are doing voluntary work, for example, for a charity, it is likely you will not be entitled to the NMW nor the NLW.

There are specific types of student internships where, as part of your course of UK-based higher or further education, you are required to undertake an internship of less than a year: in these cases you are not entitled to the NMW nor the NLW.

In a similar way, work experience students who are under the compulsory school age (usually 16 years) are not entitled to the NMW.

If you are not being paid for your work, you may find it helpful to look at our page on volunteering.

Example: Jay – voluntary work

Jay works for a charity each week providing counselling services. Jay hopes this will help him find a job in that sector in the future. He has signed an agreement saying he will try to provide them with a certain number of hours each month. Should he be paid for this?

It sounds like Jay is doing voluntary work and would not be entitled to the NMW nor the NLW.

Example: Kirsty – national minimum wage

Kirsty promotes a local nightclub by handing out leaflets. She does not get paid, but instead she is able to get free entry to the nightclub for herself and a few friends. Should she be paid for this?

Kirsty needs to look at any agreement she has with the nightclub. It sounds like she may have a case for claiming the NMW or the NLW depending on her age.

Please note the above examples are very general. Your situation will depend on your individual circumstances.

Interns and expenses

This applies to interns who are being paid for their work.

If, instead, you are being paid expenses for voluntary work that you do, look at the page on volunteering.

As a paid worker, you are in the same position as other employees. Broadly, any expenses paid to you by your employer are potentially taxable. You are able, though, to claim a deduction for tax purposes for any expenses that are ‘necessarily’ spent by you in the performance of your duties. So, if your employer only reimburses you for actual expenses that you necessarily incurred, it is unlikely a tax liability will arise on these expenses.

Home to work travel expenses are usually not tax deductible.

More information

Further information on the subject of expenses is available on our page employment expenses.

Interns who are providing services on a voluntary basis should look at our page on volunteering.

There is more information on when volunteers may be ‘workers’ and due the NMW in the HMRC NMW manual. You might be able to get help from the Acas helpline if you are not sure whether you should be paid the NMW. 

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