Internships – making sure businesses comply with the National Minimum Wage Act
The Workplace Relations Commission have a section on their website which refers to unpaid work to cover the issue of internships or work placements. Any person who is carrying out actual work must be paid in line with the National Minimum Wage Act. The only time an unpaid internship would apply is in the case where the person is shadowing the person they are learning from. They would not be carrying out any work tasks.
If the intern is carrying out work tasks, the National Minimum Wage rates which they must receive according to their age is as follows:
- For all staff aged 20 and over they are entitled to €9.80 an hour;
- For staff aged 19, they receive €8.82 an hour, which is 90% of the minimum wage rate;
- For staff aged 18, they receive €7.84 an hour, which is 80% of the minimum wage rate;
- For all staff under 18, they receive €6.86 an hour, which is 70% of the minimum wage rate.
From March 2019, the previous trainee rates were removed and the above rates apply now except for family members or those on a registered industrial apprenticeship.
The Workplace Relations Commission advise that any business that fails to comply with this could incur a summary conviction or a fine up to €2,500 and/or imprisonment up to 6 months. This is one of their key focus areas when they carry out a workplace inspection.
For those on a paid internship, businesses may wish to use a temporary fixed term contract or a written agreement setting out the terms of the paid internship. In addition to the right to pay in line with the National Minimum Wage Act, the intern retains all of their employment rights such as:
- Annual leave and public holiday entitlements. This would be pro-rated if they work part time.
- Health and safety – this also includes those who are shadowing or carrying out volunteer work.
- Rest breaks in line with the Organisation of Working Time Act.
- A written statement of terms of employment to be received within 2 months, however, they must receive the core terms within 5 days of commencing, so it may be worthwhile including all the items in the statement on day 1 when they commence the internship.
- A copy of the disciplinary policy within one month of commencing the internship.
It is good practice to give all interns and those in unpaid training access to the company handbook (where appropriate) but at a minimum they should receive the grievance policy, bullying and harassment and other essential policies that would impact them. It can also be really helpful to have a dedicated mentor or buddy system so they have someone they can talk to about their training or other issues with the internship programme.
Finally, for transparency and clarity it is good practice to give the intern a structured internship training programme so it is clear they know what to expect in terms of training and experience so that they can have a positive experience during the internship. It is always worth bearing in mind that today’s intern will be a future advocate for your company.
For more details on internships please contact Helen at email@example.com or on 01 605 1668