I am writing to you about Reading East MP, Rob Wilson, who is currently seeking to recruit an unpaid worker for his office, in spite of the regulations that require all workers to be paid at least the National Minimum Wage.
In terms of this MP, the advert he has posted (copied below) makes it clear what he wants this intern to do; "Duties will include data entry, filing, answering telephone calls and general office assistance to Rob's Parliamentary Aide and Constituency Assistant". I am sure you are familiar with MP's use of interns as workers in this way, but maybe not so familiar with the fact that HMRC has significantly tightened its definition of volunteers recently, which has specific relevance to the use of interns in political office.
I have checked this situation with the DBERR helpline on the Minimum Wage, the only place for authoritative, official advice on this subject, with reference to the new guidance, and asked specifically about whether an intern who was expected to do work like this should be paid the Minimum Wage.
They say that firstly the term "intern" has no meaning in terms of the regulations and that the only exception for "work experience" is where it involves a full time student on a required placement for their course.They also told me, firmly and unequivocally, that for a volunteer to be exempted as unpaid they must not be expected to turn up at any specific time or do any specific work and also that "as soon as you give them work you expect them to do they could claim the Minimum Wage as it becomes an employee/employer relationship". This also accords with the newly published guidance on the regulations which was highlighted in the Low Pay Commission report on the National Minimum Wage and which is now widely available.
Please note that it makes no difference whether a person agrees to work unpaid or not - it is not permissible for an employer to conspire to avoid payment in this way.
This is also not about the use of volunteers who might drop in to an office and agree to take part in campaigning, all of which can legally be unpaid. There is however a quantifiable and legally observed difference between that, and taking someone on who has been recruited to do specific work like this individual.
I have asked Rob Wilson about this, via his assistant, but he is not prepared to address this or check the regulations. At a time when the probity of public figures is such a live issue, this is somewhat surprising. However if he will not do it, might I suggest that you find out if what I am saying is accurate or not? The Minimum Wage helpline (0845 6000 678) would be more than happy to advise on this. If you make an enquiry as an employer and place the circumstances outlined in front of them and ask them whether someone taken on in this capacity should be paid, you may discover something that you may, or may not, wish to enlighten Rob Wilson about.
If you need any more details, please feel free to ask.