Internships have been the focus of much debate recently, with some arguing that they are either a form of job substitution or a way of exploiting cheap labour, and others that they are vital to both charities and those who want to work for them.
Much of the confusion comes from the fact that the term ‘intern’ has no basis in UK law. There is no legal definition of an ‘internship’. So people undertaking a role described as an ‘internship will still in legal terms be defined as either a worker or a volunteer.
Some charities describe some volunteer roles as internships as they have found it valuable to offer volunteering opportunities with a stronger skill-development focus and because describing a position as an ‘internship’ has been found to attract more volunteers.
NCVO have worked with a range of organisations to review the current situation and produce guidance on volunteer internships to help charities ensure they fully understand any legal obligations they may have and to ensure expectations about the role between both parties are clear.
The guidance also identifies key principles to follow to help ensure volunteer internships are managed in line with good practice, give a good quality experience and ensure volunteer interns are treated fairly and within the law.
- Be clear what the role is and its purpose before recruiting
- Ensure that a volunteer internship is a genuine volunteering opportunity
- Make sure volunteering opportunities are genuinely inclusive and accessible
- Support volunteer interns in accordance with good practice standards in volunteer management
- Ensure that volunteer intern positions do not undermine fair recruitment procedures
- Provide opportunities for evaluation and regular feedback
- Recognise the contribution of volunteer interns
More information on each principle and how to implement them is discussed in the guidance.