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Sony pays intern £4,600 after denying him minimum wage

Games design graduate worked for three months at Guerrilla Cambridge as art tester

A games tester who worked for PlayStation in the UK has received a £4,600 settlement after suing the company for unpaid wages.

Chris Jarvis claimed he had worked nine-hour-days at Guerrilla Cambridge - developers of the recently released Killzone: Mercenary - for three straight months in 2012. The intern, who is a games design graduate, also commuted three hours each day and claims Sony stopped paying for the fares.

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Chris Jarvis has a first class degree in Games Art and Design from Norwich University

Though it was initially arranged that he would shadow another developer and get first-hand experience in games development, Jarvis claims that he was instead used as a tester for 3D artwork.

"I was basically clicking buttons to make sure the pictures that had come in from China were working," he said.

"It's normally part of the Environment Artist's job. It's time-consuming and boring work. I was at the end of my overdraft and I didn't know what to do, so I looked into my rights and found that I was legally doing the work of an employee."

It is claimed he "politely informed" Sony that this change meant he was entitled to the national minimum wage.

"They were very dismissive and told me I was a volunteer and that's how I could work for free," he said.

"I thought they would say they had made an honest mistake. If they got someone in to do the job it would have cost £100 a day. But they said that I was a volunteer so not entitled to any pay."

He went on to report Guerrilla Cambridge to HM Revenue and Customs and sued it for unpaid wages.

Jarvis sought about £3,600, but weeks before a scheduled tribunal, Sony paid him the full amount plus an additional £1,000. The company asked him to sign a gagging order, which he has declined.

Jasmine Patel of solicitors Leigh Day, said "if someone is working set hours ... and is adding value to the company so that if they were not doing the task someone else would have to be paid to do it, then it is more likely they will be defined as a worker in law, entitled to be paid".

"Voluntary workers can only be employed unpaid by a charity, a voluntary organisation, an associated fund-raising body or a statutory body. You can be a volunteer worker at a commercial company, but you still qualify for the minimum wage."

She added that employees needed to have a better understanding of workers' rights.

"The only people who will be able to afford to do these internships are the ones who can pay to do them, while the people from poorer backgrounds can't," she said.

Sony has declined to comment.

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