Thursday, 25th April 2019


Work experience, internships and apprenticeships are excellent ways of improving your CV, especially in a difficult job market. They can be hard to come by but if you do get such an opportunity, this page explains your basic rights and what you can expect.

You have the right to be paid

Generally speaking, if you are performing work for a company and not simply shadowing someone in their role, you are entitled to be paid at least the National Minimum Wage (NMW).

Legally, a ‘worker’ is an individual engaged under an oral or written contract to perform work personally.

Students doing a placement for less than one year as part of a higher education course (such as a first degree or a teacher training course) and genuine volunteers are not entitled to be paid.

You are only truly a ‘volunteer’, and therefore not an employee or worker, if there is no obligation on you to perform work.

The National Minimum Wage is currently £6.08 per hour for workers aged 21 and over, and £4.98 per hour for workers aged 18 to 20 (October 2011).

Work experience

Do I have the right to be paid?

  • Someone carrying out work experience is not entitled to a wage if they are just shadowing other workers. If, however, they are expected to perform tasks for a company or on behalf of an individual, then they are working and are consequently entitled to the National Minimum Wage relevant to their age group.
  • Many employers offering work experience placements will ask candidates to sign a voluntary agreement, waiving their rights to expect pay for the work they do.

What else can I expect?

  • Whilst you do not have the legal right to be reimbursed for your travel expenses, some companies offer this if you are shadowing someone and are not being paid.
  • You may be asked to sign a confidentiality agreement – this is very common.


Do I have the right to be paid?

Students on sandwich higher education courses are not necessarily entitled to a wage or salary, although, given that these internships can last up to a year, a lot of organisations might pay a basic salary or contribute towards costs.

The same regulations apply to interns as they do to people on work experience placements, i.e. if an intern is expected to carry out the same tasks as a paid worker then they are entitled to pay. Also similarly, many organisations will ask interns to sign voluntary agreements at the beginning of a placement so it is unpaid. Some organisations will only pay expenses such as travel and food whilst some programmes pay a basic salary.

What other rights do I have?

If you are a worker (see “The right to be paid” for definition), you are entitled to other employment rights, including:

  • Paid holiday – a minimum of 28 days (including bank holidays) per year
  • Maximum working hours – limited to an average of 48 hours per week over a 17 week period under the Working Time Regulations 1998 (although you can be asked to opt out of this limit)
  • Protection from discrimination - on grounds of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage or civil partnership, pregnancy or maternity, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation

If you are an employee, you have all of the above rights plus the right to protection from unfair dismissal once you have worked for the same employer for one year.


What is an apprenticeship?

  • An apprenticeship is a fixed term contract, usually lasting between one and four years, giving the apprentice the right to be trained. It is an opportunity to develop job-specific skills and gain recognised qualifications.

Do I have the right to be paid?

  • Apprentices under 19 or in their first year of apprenticeship are entitled to be paid a minimum of £2.60 per hour. Apprentices who are 19 or older or who have completed their first year of apprenticeship should be paid at least the relevant NMW rate above.

Other rights

  • If your contract of apprenticeship is terminated early you may have a claim for compensation for loss of wages, training and status.

What if I am currently working and feel I should be or should have been paid?

  • You may be able to make an Employment Tribunal claim for breach of contract or unlawful deductions from wages. The company could also face criminal penalties for failing to pay the NMW when it is due.

Click here for more job advice.