A lot gets said about volunteering, work experience, interning, graduate schemes, work shadowing and even more about fair pay, living wage, minimum wage and apprenticeship pay and we think it’s important for you to know exactly what it is you’re doing and what you’re entitled to.

Most people start getting exposed to careers in year 10 when they go off for two weeks and do work experience – often somewhere completely unrelated to where you’re probably at now but it gives you your first taste. Two weeks where you often found yourself making endless cups of teas and probably shredding paper if you’re in an office, cleaning things if you’re in a shop, following a disheveled doctor who hasn’t slept for ages and doesn’t really want you around and tells you not to touch anything, probably the same if you were at a vets only they might let you stroke a dog – can’t really do that to the patients in hospitals. You don’t get paid for these two weeks and you’re not entitled to either, this is because by law work experience of students of compulsory school age, ie under 16, aren’t entitled to minimum wage.

So when else are you not entitled to pay? If you shadow an employee and don’t carry out any work you’re not entitled to payment. If you’re volunteering for a charity, voluntary organisation, associated fund raising body or a statutory body.

Also students required to do an internship for less than one year as part of a UK-based further or higher education course aren’t entitled to the national minimum wage.

The most important thing to remember though is just because you’re not entitled to it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get it. Unlike the 16 year old version of you, you’ve now been through years of education and learning and are passionate and talented at what you do and have worked hard to acquire the skills you have – all you need now is that pesky experience that all these employees talk about.


Internships are a very good way of getting the experience you need but that doesn’t mean that you should work for free, especially if it is for an extended period of time. There has been a call for the Government to ban unpaid internships that last longer than 4 weeks which a YouGov poll showed that two-thirds of businesses support. (read full article here)

There are also other ways of getting experience – collaborating with students is a fantastic way of gaining experience and building your portfolio up.
Sometimes an unpaid opportunity does come up that’s too good not to miss – sometimes the experience is payment enough but never under value yourself and what you have to offer to employees.

The Students’ Union will never knowingly advertise an unpaid position and will strive to find the fairest opportunities. However there is only so much we can do so if you start a job and find information about it was advertised wrongly its really important you let us know.

To find out more on fair internships visit internaware

Don't forget to follow us on Twitter to find creative opportunities - @UCASU_opps

Posted in: Exchange on Friday, March 11th, 2016 by