The government department wrote to London Fashion Week’s 102 exhibitors cautioning against using interns as employees as unpaid labour and cautioned that it would start compliance visits at the beginning of the New Year.
Michelle Wyer, HMRC’s assistant director for NMW, said: “These letters give fashion houses plenty of warning that they are under scrutiny. If they are not playing by the rules, now is the time to put things right. Non-payment of the national minimum wage is not an option.”
HMRC added that it had evidence to suggest young interns seeking work opportunities were commonly exploited, but were unlikely to proactively complain about not being paid the NMW to which they were entitled.
Alex Try, co-founder of website Interns Anonymous said: “This is a much needed move from HMRC – and long overdue. Doing set tasks, having to turn up at set times and being relied upon by your colleagues means you should be legally paid at least the minimum wage.”
The challenge was helping young people to know their rights and understand that if they were doing an unpaid internship, they could complain to HMRC and should help you reclaim lost earnings, he added. “All efforts by HMRC to raise awareness of this problem – including targeted enforcement is a step in right direction. I look forward to more action in future,” Try said.
According to media and entertainment union BECTU, HMRC is also targeting the X Factor TV show for using interns as employees and not paying them the minimum wage. The union said that it contacted the department following the claims made by graduation employment website, Graduate Fog, and twitter posts.