Federal Labor Court: Mandatory internship permitted without minimum wage


Status: 01/19/2022 3:57 p.m

An internship does not have to be remunerated with the minimum wage if it is a prerequisite for studying. This has been decided by the Federal Labor Court.

By Florian Roithmeier, ARD legal department

What was the specific case?

A woman wanted to study medicine at a private university. The university’s admission regulations stipulated that she had to have completed a six-month internship in nursing. Without this she would not have been allowed to start her studies. She finally completed this internship in 2019 at a clinic in Trier – unpaid. The woman was of the opinion that she was entitled to the minimum wage of 9.19 euros per hour for the internship and sued the clinic. It was about a total of around 10,000 euros and holiday pay.

The lower courts – the labor court in Trier and the regional labor court in Rhineland-Palatinate – ruled: the woman is not entitled to a minimum wage because the internship was a compulsory internship. In this case, according to Section 22 of the Minimum Wage Act, there is no money.

How did the Federal Labor Court decide?

The woman does not get a minimum wage, according to the Federal Labor Court. Because the law says: If access to a degree depends on an internship, no minimum wage has to be paid. According to the Federal Labor Court, this does not only mean cases in which you have to complete the internship during your studies. But even if you have to do something in order to be allowed to study at all, you don’t get a minimum wage. This also applies if you apply to a private university that is state-recognized.

Are internships always unpaid?

No. There are cases in which interns must be paid the minimum wage. This is the case, for example, if it is a voluntary internship for career orientation that lasts longer than three months. But this is often the key: to avoid having to pay the minimum wage, employers often limit internships to three months.

What can you do if you think you are entitled to minimum wage?

First of all, you can try to talk to your employer. If he refuses to pay the money, you should ask him in writing to pay and also break down exactly how much money you are asking for. It should be noted that the entitlement to minimum wage expires after three years. This means, for example, that minimum wage claims from 2018 expired at the end of 2021.

File number: 5 AZR 217/21


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