Individuals undertaking an internship have a duty to perform meaningful and valuable work for the organisation. Internships are therefore the next level up from work experience placements.
They are usually less structured than a traineeship and tend to be of shorter duration. Individuals have already gained significant knowledge in their chosen area and are being given the opportunity to apply the skills they have obtained in the working environment. The organisation equally gains from the internship in terms of business value, genuine enthusiasm from the individual and the diversification of their workforce.
There are two types of internships:
1. Student Internships carried out by students as part of a course
2. General Internships that are not part of a course and are open to a broader range of individuals.
1. Student Internships: It is possible for the placement to be unpaid even if the individual is performing as a ‘worker’ as they are undertaking the placement as part of a course as outlined below. However, it is recommended that a basic wage is offered in recognition of the value the intern brings to the organisation.
Additionally, as the individual is registered as a full-time student, they can continue to benefit from university accommodation and student loans. Modules that are delivered in the workplace contribute towards the accumulation of credit across the academic year and individuals should be provided with written confirmation of the terms of their engagement.
2. General Internships: As the individual is performing as a ‘worker’ and is not in full-time education, employers must adhere fully to National Minimum Wage legislation throughout the duration of their placement.
The National Minimum Wage is generally less than the average starting salary and corresponds to the fact that while the internship is a learning process, there is real business gain. Individuals should be provided with a standard contract that covers the duration of their placement, and in some cases there may be an opportunity for full-time employment following on from the placement.
In both cases, internships should be between three and six months in duration, in order to get the most value for both the employer and the individual, and the working week should not exceed 40 hours.