HMRC to End Fashion Industry Intern Abuse

Friday, November 18, 2011 Print Email

HM Revenue & Customs is planning a crackdown on companies in the fashion industry which employ unpaid interns in breach of minimum wage laws.

The Guardiannewspaper says it has seen internal HMRC documents which show it believes interns across the employment spectrum are at ‘high risk’ of abuse under national minimum wage laws.

Recent legal advice received by the government has suggested that many interns are likely to be classed as workers and therefore entitled to the national minimum wages and other legal rights. HMRC is responsible for the enforcement of the minimum wage.

The paper says HMRC has pulled together a 12-person taskforce which will make random spot-checks on fashion firms where interns are being used as workers rather than just shadowing staff.

This special ‘dynamic response’ unit will have powers to question managers and go through accounts until it is satisfied that no abuse is taking place.

Some high street fashion chains have advertised nine-month unpaid internships, and theGuardianalso quotes the example of a designer fashion house which advertised for a three-month unpaid internships which required a high level of prior IT skills.

According to the HMRC internal briefing document, there has been a significant increase over the last few years in the number of UK employers offering internships. It adds that the HMRC should target the fashion industry for the next six months because it is ‘well known for the use of interns’.

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