Archive for March, 2010

Parliamentary reformers forget about Interns

IPSA (the Independent Parliamentary Standards Association) have today published their new scheme for Parliamentary Expenses, back-tracking on their earlier proposal to make the payment of parliamentary interns mandatory within Parliament.

IPSA have said they will create a standard contract for the employment of parliamentary interns, but they won’t include payment. This still seems at odds with National Minimum Wage Laws. Only last week the Low Pay Commission reported on non-compliance with minimum wage laws in politics.

Phil Willis MP, who has been an ardent campaigner for interns’ rights, said:

Once inflation, contributions to National Insurance and staff pensions have been taken into account, staffing budgets are effectively reduced under the new scheme. Not only have IPSA failed to make payment for interns mandatory, but by reducing the resources available they have made it even less likely than MPs will be able to do so.

So not only have they decided not to comply with the law – they are also reducing the opportunities for young people to gain access to parliament.


Breaking News: +++ Low Pay Commission Reports on Unpaid Internships +++

The evidence we received on unpaid work experience indicates that there is systematic abuse of interns, with a growing number of people undertaking ‘work’ but excluded from the minimum wage.

It is becoming increasingly commonplace in certain sectors, particularly the media, entertainment industry and in politics, for employers to demand a period of unpaid work experience as a means of getting into the industry. The Government’s Fair Access to the Professions report highlighted the issue of unpaid internships and how they serve to limit career choices to those who can afford to work unpaid and those who live near London.

We further encourage BIS as part of this work to engage directly with the sectors in which lengthy unpaid internships have become the norm. We invite BIS to present its proposed strategy to us by the summer.

The Low Pay Commission Report can be read here.

More to follow…

Spotlight on the Manchester Graduate Internship Programme

With the Government putting increasing emphasis on unpaid internships as the answer to graduate unemployment we thought we would take a look at a successful scheme run by the University of Manchester, which links up employers and students with PAID internship schemes offering graduate level work.

I certainly wish the scheme had been better advertised while I was at Manchester – because they have managed to get 65 students in placements this year, paying at least minimum wage. Industries offering internships range from engineering and lab work to IT and marketing.

The emphasis, says Anne Milligan, the programme coordinator, is on “helping small businesses access talented graduates” and making sure they are offering “graduate level work”. Inspections are done to make sure interns are not making cups of tea or spending six months photocopying.

This is the way a graduate internships scheme should be done, and benefits both the graduates, and small businesses in the region.

The scheme was dreamt up in 2008 with 42 placements, and is steadily growing. Already this year 5 grads have been offered permanent positions. Who can argue with that?

If anyone approaches them with an unpaid position they tell them where to go. Anne described unpaid work as “dreadful” and “devaluing what graduates can offer”. Three cheers for Manchester University Careers Service!

Cut the costs of events: hire slaves!

I saw your website on the BBC news and would like to share my story:

After graduating in 2008 I began an internship with a London events organiser, which was advertised as a ‘1-3 month position’. I started this placement in December 2008, and was told I would receive £100 per month in expenses. At the end of the month I went home for a week for Christmas. I strongly feel, both then and now, that I shouldn’t have to justify my reasons for deciding during that week that I could no longer afford to continue with the placement. In the New Year I called my ’employer’ to tell them as such, and found myself apologising and grovelling for having ‘let them down’. A few days later I sent an email asking what the arrangements were for receiving my expenses for December. I was told that I would not be able to receive any expenses as I had not completed the internship.

At the time I was upset and humiliated, and tried to forget the experience. I now realise that, under law, this amounted to a three-month contract and I should have been paid the National Minimum Wage. Instead, I was exploited at a time when I was helpless and vulnerable, and was not able to stand up for my rights.

The Romans found that slaves were a great way to cut the cost of their decadent lifestyle

Shooting yourself in the foot?

An Event on Film and Television Internships

Date: Thursday 18th March
Time: 7:00pm
Location: The University of London Union, Malet Street, London, WC1E 7HY (nearest tube stations: Goodge Street & Russell Square)

In the wake of the recent London Dreams case, which retrospectively awarded an unpaid intern the National Minimum Wage for the hours she worked on a feature film, there has been much debate within the industry about the effect this decision will have. Does the verdict represent the long-overdue protection desperately needed by the industry’s most vulnerable workers, or the death of creativity and collaboration which often provides a stepping stone for those who are new to the industry? Should it be viewed as a victory or a disaster..? 

Continue reading ‘Shooting yourself in the foot?’

Which? route to take?

There are loads of people with horrible experiences as interns but my story is different. I graduated with a history degree from the LSE last year and spent 3 months searching for an entry-level job. I have some work experience but not really a lot and given the economic situation I wasn’t very optimistic. I didn’t apply for any internships because they were mostly unpaid and although my parents proposed to support me financially I decided to try it on my own. I became really desperate and applied for any jobs even those for which I was clearly over-qualified and which, to be honest, I’m quite sure I would have dropped out fast.

Continue reading ‘Which? route to take?’

I eat Interns for Breakfast

Social Breakfast is a great new website which promotes youth engagement with politicians and industry figures.

When we heard they were interviewing a Lib Dem candidate we just had to ask his views on unpaid interns. Nick Radford replied to our questions thus:

You can’t employ somebody who doesn’t get paid…We do have interns working on our campaign but…it’s not an employment situation.

There’s a valid concern that there are some people who employ interns and…the employer expects them to perform as an employee. If that’s the arrangement then it’s wrong.

He concludes:

[The] education system is not equipping young people with the skills that they need to be employed.

What do you think? You can check out the full interview over at the Social Breakfast website. Next up for the Social Breakfast team is Green MEP Caroline Lucas. We will be asking her about interns as well.

Interns Anonymous

We want this website to be a forum for interns to share their experiences and discuss the ethics of unpaid employment. Most importantly, we want this site to be a place where YOU can tell us your story.


Interns Anonymous accept no responsibility for the contents of the blog, comments or any other content on this site that is posted or provided by third parties. This website is designed to act as a forum for interns to share experiences and opinions about their work, therefore, we will not censor opinions we do not agree with. The opinions stated in blog contributions do not represent those of Interns Anonymous. We disclaim all liability for such content to the fullest extent permitted by law. If you have any queries please email us.

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