Should interns be paid?

Nearly everyone who is over the compulsory school age and working legally in the UK should be paid at least the National Minimum Wage (NMW).

In order to be eligible for the NMW, you have to meet two tests:

  • you must be a 'worker' – as defined in NMW, paid holidays and working time law; and
  • you must not fall into one of the exemptions from the NMW.

You can use our online minimum wage calculator to see if you qualify for the NMW, and if so, which rate you should receive.

A 2009 employment tribunal case found that a young woman (Nicola Vetta) working for a film company (London Dreams Motion Pictures) was eligible for the NMW, even though she had initially agreed only to receive expenses.

If your internship only involves work-shadowing, you may not have a right to be paid. But if as an intern you do work of value for your employer, you are likely to have a right to the NMW. This will particularly be the case if your employer agrees to pay you expenses or other benefits in kind, including training, in return for your work.

Your contract might set a higher rate of pay than the NMW. In any event, provided you meet the definition of a 'worker', your basic pay must not be less than the NMW.

Note: This content is provided as general background information and should not be taken as legal advice or financial advice for your particular situation. Make sure to get individual advice on your case from your union, a source on our free help page or an independent financial advisor before taking any action.

What is WorkSmart?

A career coach that works for everyone.


Enjoy bite-sized activities delivered to you every week.

Lightbulb brain

Equip yourself with essential skills to be the best you yet.


Get the guidance you need to stay focused and reach your goals.

Worksmart circle