British Government Warns Fashion Houses to Not Exploit Interns

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Photo: © 20th Century Fox/Everett Collection

"A million girls would kill for this job." Anne Hathaway as a fashion assistant in The Devil Wears Prada.

Good news, fashion interns. The British government wants to protect you from any Devil Wears Prada moments.

The HMRC (Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs, akin to the IRS) has issued a letter to 102 London Fashion Week participants to caution them against taking advantage of their hard-working interns, Vogue U.K. reports.

While it remains to be seen whether or not the agency can do anything about your daily skinny latte runs, long hours, or phone calls to book your boss' monthly colonic, it is fighting to ensure that interns are paid for their work.

"These letters give fashion houses plenty of warning that they are under scrutiny," Michelle Wyer, HMRC assistant director for National Minimum Wage, tells the British magazine.

"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. Our message is clear: don't wait for us to come knocking on your door; put things right now and avoid a penalty and possible prosecution."

Through compliance checks, the HMRC will be able to issue financial penalties to any labels caught using unpaid interns. The interns will then be given a notice of underpayment which will entitle them to back payment from their first day of work. Nice!

The measure has also received the backing of Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.

"I strongly urge fashion houses and designer labels to make sure they are treating interns fairly," Clegg tells Vogue U.K.

"Where an individual is entitled to the minimum wage they should receive it. Internships provide valuable opportunities in opening up doors for the future and they should be available to everyone, not just those who can afford to work for nothing."

Bravo! Now, can we get the CFDA on this?