The Government will crackdown on unpaid internships as part of its radical overhaul of modern working practices.
In a statement, HM Revenue & Customs said it had written to more than 500 companies reminding them that interns classed as workers must be paid at least the National Minimum Wage (NMW).
The NMW for workers over the age of 25 is £7.50, due to be raised to £7.83 in April this year.
Recent figures, published by charity Sutton Trust, suggest that as many as 40 per cent of 70,000 internships undertaken annually are unpaid. The charity said it backed calls to ban unpaid internships over a month long.
The Government said: “Exploitative unpaid internships should not exist and we will work to eradicate these.
“We will take action to improve the interpretation of the law and the enforcement action taken by HMRC in this area to help stamp out illegal unpaid internships.”
The news forms part of the Government’s response to the Mathew Taylor Review of modern employment practices.
Among the reforms, the Government also aims to deliver basic workers’ rights – such as holiday and sick pay – to all employees, including those working in the gig economy. Zero-hours workers will also be given the right to request a more stable contract.