A good quality internship can be a great way to get experience and kick-start your career. But too many employers think of internships as free labour, and take advantage of enthusiastic young workers.

A good internship should be properly structured and offer a genuine chance to learn new skills and get experience. You should be treated with the same respect as any other member of staff, not seen as an office dogsbody. 

And in the vast majority of cases, internships should be paid. If you’re doing work of value for your employer, you should earn at least the National Minimum Wage.

You’re also entitled to a contract of employment, sensible working hours and a reference at the end of your internship.

If you’re having problems during your internship, you can take action to enforce your rights.

As a first step, consider joining a trade union as soon as you start. Then if anything goes wrong, your union rep will be able to offer advice on how to respond.

If you’re not sure which union to join, our Union Finder tool can help.

Common
questions
Do interns have any rights at work?
Most basic statutory employment rights depend on you being a 'worker'. You count as a 'worker' if your internship arrangement places you under a legal obligation to do some work in person for the organisation where you're interning.
What should I expect from a good internship?
Internships vary a lot. But you should at least expect pay, a contract of employment, sensible hours, the change to gain skills and experience and respect from other workers.
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.
What can I do if I have a problem with my internship?
One of the most effective forms of protection in the workplace is to join a trade union as soon as you start.