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No minimum wage for mandatory internships

In its ruling of January 19, 2022 (Case No. -5 AZR 217/21-), the Federal Labor Court decided that compulsory internships that are a prerequisite for admission to a course of study are not to be paid according to the statutory minimum wage. The BAG thus confirmed the identical decision of the Rhineland-Palatinate Regional Labor Court.

The plaintiff had applied for a place to study human medicine at a private, state-recognized university. According to the study regulations, a six-month internship in nursing is a prerequisite for admission to the course. The applicant had completed the internship in a hospital. Payment of remuneration was not agreed. In her lawsuit, the applicant claimed remuneration totaling 10,269.85 EURO, citing the Minimum Wage Act. She claimed that she had worked 7.45 hours a day in a five-day week.

She argued that such a preliminary internship was not a mandatory internship within the meaning of the Minimum Wage Act (MiLoG). For this reason, the statutory exception from the obligation to pay did not apply.
Like the Rhineland-Palatinate Regional Labor Court, the BAG did not consider the personal scope of application of the Minimum Wage Act to be open. The exclusion of claims to the statutory minimum wage pursuant to Section 22 (1) Sentence 2 No. 1 MiLoG covers not only mandatory internships during studies according to the intention of the legislator clearly expressed in the explanatory memorandum to the Act.

It also covers mandatory internships that are prescribed in study regulations as a prerequisite for taking up a particular course of study, which means that they must already have been completed before the start of the course. According to the BAG, the fact that the study regulations were issued by a private university does not prevent the claim, because the university is state-recognized.

This means that the access requirement issued by the university is equivalent to a regulation under public law. This ensures that the internship requirement in the study regulations does not unlawfully circumvent the fundamental entitlement to the statutory minimum wage for interns.

As a result, the plaintiff is therefore not entitled to payment on the basis of the minimum wage.

Author: Patrick Stumpp

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