Information about advertising unpaid work experience, voluntary or internship vacancies on JobOnline


This information relates to recruiters advertising opportunities for current students and graduates of The Careers Group's subscribing colleges.


What vacancies can be advertised on JobOnline?

The Careers Group, University of London is happy to advertise all genuine job or work experience opportunities that are fully compliant with UK employment legislation, including the National Minimum Wage Act (1998). We require all employers advertising job or work experience opportunities of any kind on JobOnline to pay the National Minimum Wage unless covered by one of the exemptions allowed by the Act (see What does the law say? below).


Can unpaid placements and work experience schemes be advertised on JobOnline?

We're afraid not. This is because the law requires employers to pay the National Minimum Wage (a sum set each year by the Government to ensure a fair minimum wage) for any kind of work, including work experience places, internships or placement schemes.We are therefore obliged under law to refuse any vacancies which are in contravention of the National Minimum Wage Act (1998) in the same way as we cannot accept advertisements which contravene equal opportunities law (see below for more information about permitted exceptions and what the NMW act says).


What about unpaid internships?

The term ‘intern’ has no legal status under minimum wage law. Entitlement to the minimum wage does not depend on what someone is called, the type of work they do, how the work is described or the sector they work in. What matters is whether the agreement or arrangement they have with you makes them a worker for minimum wage purposes. Unpaid internships will also therefore not be accepted on JobOnline.


I can't afford to offer the National Minimum Wage. Doesn't this prevent students from gaining valuable work experience?

We appreciate how frustrating this is for both employers and any students who are in a position to accept work on an unpaid basis. However, many students who would welcome the opportunity to gain valuable work experience are unable to do so. This makes it an equal opportunities issue. To advertise such vacancies, therefore, could get both The Careers Group and the employers themselves into considerable legal difficulties.


Are there any exceptions to the National Minimum Wage Act?

The law provides for the following exceptions:

  • Students on work placements that are endorsed by their university or college as being useful to their coursework.

These placements may last up to one year. The DTI's Guide to the NMW states:

"Students who are studying on higher education courses or undertaking a course of initial training for teachers at UK universities or colleges are sometimes placed with an employer as part of their course. As long as the placement is for a maximum period of a year such students need not be paid the minimum wage for the work that they do while with the employer."

However The Careers Group is unable to advertise these placements due to JobOnline being open to students from all The Careers Group institutions and courses.

We are however able to advertise the following exceptions as stated in the National Minimum Wage Act (1998):

  • Voluntary work for a charity - a body of persons, or the trustees of a trust, established for charitable purposes
  • Voluntary work for a voluntary organisation - a body of persons, or the trustees of a trust, which is established only for charitable purposes but may not be a charity by definition, for example a local community group
  • Voluntary work for an associated fundraising body - a body of persons, the profits of which are applied wholly for the purposes of a charity or voluntary organisation, for example, a charity shop
  • Voluntary work for a statutory body - a body set up by an Act of Parliament to carry out given functions, such as local authorities, many schools and hospitals, and bodies such as English Heritage
  • Voluntary work for a Community Amateur Sports Clubs registered with HM Revenue Customs under the Finance Act 2002, schedule 18 are treated as being charities for the purposes of NMW enforcement.
  • Work-shadowing. Note that work-shadowing opportunities cannot involve any kind of structured work or attendance requirements that could be construed as a contract. Employers should also be aware that the law will regard a phone call or a conversation as a contract if certain days, hours of work or tasks to be undertaken are agreed, as this is considered a verbal contract.

Please do contact us directly if you still believe that the position you need to advertise is exempt but is not detailed in the above information.


What about positions outside the UK?

If you advertise a work experience position outside the UK, we will expect you to have checked that it complies with the host country's relevant National Minimum Wage legislation. If it is an unpaid position, we will require it to constitute a genuine training/learning opportunity with no stated or implied contract of employment.


What does the law say?

National Minimum Wage Act (1998) is an important piece of legislation aimed at providing employees with "decent minimum standards and fairness in the workplace. It applies to nearly all workers and sets hourly rates below which pay must not be allowed to fall." (DTI Website) From 1 April 2018, the minimum wage is set at:

  • £7.83 an hour for workers aged 25 and over.
  • £7.38 an hour for workers aged 21 to 24.
  • £5.90 an hour for workers aged 18-20.
  • £4.20 an hour for workers aged 16-17.
  • £3.70 an hour for apprentices under 19 or 19 or over who are in the first year of apprenticeship.

These are set entirely by age. Government legislation sets out that all UK work experience placements are covered by the National Minimum Wage regulations. Workers are not required to have a written contract of employment to be entitled to the NMW - a contract of employment need not be written down, but may be implied via a telephone conversation or face to face. 

Please see also our Employers Code of Practice.


Where can I get further information?

The information provided on this page is intended to provide general guidance only and can not be taken as an accurate statement of the law at present. For that, we refer the employer to the sites listed above.

Lastly, please do not hesitate to contact us directly if you have any more questions or if there is any further way we can be of assistance.

For any comments about JobOnline please contact