Employers have come under fire for taking advantage of students, trainees and volunteers by offering unpaid work experience placements rather than paid positions. They run the risk of being in breach of the National Minimum Wage Act 1998 because a person undertaking work experience might in fact be considered a “worker” and therefore be entitled to a salary.
Employers are required to pay employees and workers a specified minimum hourly rate of pay. The minimum wage rate is set once a year and there are no exemptions for small employers.Anyone who fails to pay the minimum wage, fails to keep pay records or who provides false records could face a fine of up to £5,000 and, potentially, criminal sanctions. In addition, solicitors warn, workers who have been underpaid, if paid at all, can bring a claim for wages owed to them in a court or tribunal.