Unpaid internships - our policy

The Careers and Employability Centre at the University of Sussex asks all advertisers to adhere to our Code of Practice and that all advertisements are fully compliant with UK employment legislation, including the National Minimum Wage Act (1998).

This law requires employers to pay the National Minimum Wage for any kind of work, including work experience, internships or placement schemes. Further information is available from www.gov.uk/national-minimum-wage or by contacting the Pay and Work Rights helpline on 0800 917 2368

All advertisements advertised through the Careers and Employability Centre must offer at least the higher level national minimum wage unless covered by one of the following exemptions:

Volunteers - There are two types of volunteer; voluntary workers and volunteers.

Voluntary workers

Voluntary workers are workers who are employed by a charity, voluntary organisation, an associated fund-raising body or statutory body. If someone works for any other type of organisation, they cannot be voluntary workers as defined by the Act. Voluntary workers receive no monetary payment, but may receive reimbursement of expenses actually incurred, or reasonably estimated to have been incurred, in carrying out their work for a qualifying organisation.

Volunteers

Volunteers are under no contractual obligation to perform work or provide services, though they may come to informal arrangements with those for whom they carry out tasks, e.g., agreeing to undertake a task at a mutually convenient time. They offer their time and effort for free, though may receive reimbursement for expenses. Volunteers do not qualify for the national minimum wage. Unpaid work placements should therefore:-

  • not specify hours of work
  • not outline duties that a student is expected to perform
  • never rely on individuals on work experience placements to fulfill real jobs
  • not be longer than 4 weeks (full time equivalent) in duration
  • be a learning activity with agreed learning objectives with appropriate dedicated learning supervision
  • cover any out of pocket expenses incurred by the student in undertaking the placement e.g. travel expenses

If your advertisement is for an unpaid vacancy, or one which does not meet national minimum wage, we will ask you to detail the exemption which applies.

Please note that although students on a work placement as part of a course of Higher Education are exempt from the minimum wage, for reasons of equality of access the Careers and Employability Centre will not advertise placements paying less than the national living wage (currently £7.50 per hour).