HMRC to End Fashion Intern Exploitation
A crackdown on the exploitation of fashion industry interns has been launched by HM Revenue & Customs, with warnings handed out prior to compliance visits next year.
HMRC has sent letters to 102 fashion labels detailing the obligations employers have in paying at least minimum wage to interns, if tasks performed are of value.
The fashion houses receiving the advanced notice all exhibited at London Fashion Week back in September and are expected to also be at the capital’s next one in February 2012.
Michelle Wyer, HMRC’s assistant director for National Minimum Wage, said: ‘Our message is clear: don’t wait for us to come knocking on your door; put things right now and avoid a penalty and possible prosecution.’
Compliance officers are due to start carrying out visits to the designer companies early in the new year and under guidelines that came into force in April 2009, will issue fines of 50 per cent of any underpayment by employers since that date.
Ben Lyons of InternAware, an online campaign dedicated to promoting fair access to the internship system said: ‘The present system is clearly a major breach of minimum wage legislation and many people are essentially being exploited. Within the fashion industry it is a particular problem; some companies are almost entirely staffed by unpaid interns.’