Politics 12 April 2013 Is this a hoax? Unpaid internships have got to the stage where you can't tell Plus 100 UK companies are being investigated over interns. Sign up for our weekly email * Print HTML I did a number of unpaid internships in various places before I got a job. It was fine though - I guess the internships gave me valuable experience which made me more employable, so they didn't need to pay me. But then, I'm also getting valuable experience now. Arguably more valuable than when I was an intern. In fact as I continue in this job, doing different things, the experience has, if anything, made me more employable than I was at the start. I'm still waiting for my first pay-cut in recognition of this though. The unpaid stint has become de rigueur for entry to an ever increasing range of industries. Internships don't make you stand out anymore - so you do more of them, and for longer and longer and longer, until you find yourself working for a year, unpaid, as a Performance Analyst for Reading Football Club: Now this could be a hoax, but if it is, it's pretty much indistinguishable from real internships being offered by a large number of other companies. It was announced today that 100 UK companies are being investigated for breaking the law over interns, by using them in positions that actually require minimum wage. Their details were passed to HMRC by Jo Swinson, Employment Minister. A spokesman for the Department of Business said: "The law on the National Minimum Wage is clear. If somebody on a work experience placement or internship is a worker under NMW legislation, then they are entitled to the minimum wage. "Internships can be a valuable way of helping young people get into work and realise their ambitions. Anyone who feels they are being exploited should contact the Pay and Work Rights Helpline. Their call will be fast-tracked to HMRC who actively investigate any claims of NMW abuse." Jo Swinson said in a letter: "I would like to take this opportunity to thank Intern Aware for their help and continued support on this issue. "The list of employers that you provided will be treated as intelligence by HMRC. Intelligence forms part of the risk process by helping to identify sectors where there is a higher likelihood of non-compliance." Not before time. It is impossible or at least inadvisable for interns to take a stand against prospective employers. HMRC is the proper group to do it on their behalf. › Celebrating the New Statesman's biggest-ever issue Photograph: Getty Images Martha Gill writes the weekly Irrational Animals column. You can follow her on Twitter here: @Martha_Gill. Subscribe from just £1 per issue More Related articles Jeremy Corbyn has found a vulnerable spot on Theresa May and trade Politicians are worried that their pensions are destroying the planet. Is yours? Nap Store: Where did all these new mattress start-ups come from?