INTERN ALERT: The U.K. is set to crack down on fashion companies that engage unpaid interns for extended periods of time. Unless interns are working as volunteers — and are free to come and go as they wish — or are taking part in a higher education course, they need to be paid the national minimum wage, under guidelines issued by the U.K.’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. For those over 21 years old, the rate is 6.08 pounds, or $9.49, an hour. In the U.K. fashion industry, it’s common for long-term unpaid interns to work long hours and weekends.
Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, the U.K.’s tax authority, said it is in the planning stages of targeting companies that it believes are violating the guidelines. “Evidence suggests that young workers who apply for internships are unlikely to proactively complain about nonpayment of the national minimum wage,” a spokesman for HMRC told WWD. “To tackle the issue, HMRC will conduct targeted enforcement on those trade sectors which traditionally use interns and work experience.” The enforcement could involve unannounced visits to companies and educating companies to understand their responsibilities. In the past, HMRC has prosecuted and fined companies for nonpayment of the minimum wage, and has ordered them to pay workers’ wages in arrears.