Massive surge in use of interns. Time to take advantage?

In this two minute HR Blast we consider a topic that more and more organisations are asking us about: the use of interns; the advantages they can gain by taking them on and whether or not to pay them. First, let’s take a quick look at what’s in it for you!

Benefits to employers

  • Short term, low cost (or no cost) addition to headcount to support with a project or during a busy time
  • New ideas, new energy and sometimes new skills for your organisation
  • Extended ‘try before you buy’ interview period to check out the person you would like to offer a job to
  • Flexible, adaptable addition to existing workforce

Benefit to job seekers

  • 70% of internships lead to job offers
  • Great way to demonstrate who you are and what you can contribute (which academic qualifications do not)
  • Opportunity to experience different cultures (and roles) when deciding what organisational culture (or role) might best suit you
  • Opportunity to enter world of work whilst still in education in order to better position yourself for when you are seeking permanent work

A few facts and figures

(from the European Youth Forum and Internships.com)

The use of interns in Europe increased by 53% in 2013 after a huge rise also in 2012 (36%).

Internships are said to give job seekers a 70% better chance at being hired with most job offers being made directly at the end of the internship or on completion of academic qualifications.

25% of interns are in a legal black hole as a result of not being issued with a contract of employment. This also means that employers are often not getting their interns to sign confidentiality clauses.

There has been a huge increase in the use of virtual interns (i.e. interns who are not working in your premises). 53% of employers now have virtual interns.

Just 51% of interns receive payment. 28% are paid less than the national minimum wage. Often just expenses are paid.

National Minimum Wage clarification

Confusion abounds with employers as to whether the National Minimum Wage should be paid. In a nutshell:

Current legislation provides for those on genuine work experience to be excluded from the NMW. (If you need to understand the exact wording of the law, please speak to us).

Some interns are on genuine work experience therefore do not have to be paid, whilst other interns are working and therefore should be paid.

It is often unclear where the boundary lies between work experience (i.e. experiencing work) and work experience (doing work).  To protect your organisation in law we recommend you talk to us about the wording of your job spec and contract before your intern is recruited. Guidance to managers who will manage your interns is also helpful to ensure they understand how to minimise legal risk.

Recruitment, placement and induction – a brief checklist!

  • Create a job spec
  • Make an internal decision about whether this is an opportunity for someone to experience work (unpaid) or do work for experience (paid)
  • Draw up a job ad (Jaluch can support with the recruitment and selection if required)
  • Draw up a contract and confirm the duration of the internship (ask us for advice and support with this if you are not familiar with the necessary clauses or legislation)
  • If paid, check worker’s right to work in the UK
  • Create an Induction plan. Don’t forget essentials such as H&S just because they are with you for a short period
  • Remember that for some interns, the placement is their first experience in work so be sure to assign an employee to Manage or oversee them
  • Include regular reviews and have a clear understanding of what point, if any, you might make a formal offer of employment
  • Be clear about accessibility (or otherwise) onto company training programmes during the period of the placement
  • If employing and managing a virtual intern, this requires some specific skills so get advice if necessary, and choose a line manager who is confident with managing staff remotely.

If you need support recruiting an intern or putting their employment documentation in order, get in touch, we’d be happy to assist.

Post-holiday blues? We can help!

Contract or employment policies need reviewing, but currently sit in your in-tray emitting negative vibes? No worries! Pass your documentation to us and you can have it back reviewed and updated in under two weeks. Pain-free. What a great way to start the New Year.

Need ad hoc or ongoing support with contractual and staffing issues? Call our advice line now and you can have your first question answered straightaway.

Bringing in new staff as part of a process of change? Check out our latest Bag of Learning – Managing Change.

The information contained within this article is for general guidance only and represents our understanding of employment and associated law and employee relations issues as at the date of publication. Jaluch Limited, or any of its directors or employees, cannot be held responsible for any action or inaction taken in reliance upon the contents. Specific advice should be sought on all individuals matters.

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