Archive for June, 2010

£2.50 an hour for working as an intern?… you must be joking!

My reaction to the recent proposals saying interns should be paid a ‘training wage’ of 2.50 an hour was shock and disbelief. In fact, it was to whisper “bullshit” under my breath several times. A reader has written in with their thoughts: 

This week has been a hot one for internships featured in the media. Not only have Allen&Overy released some interesting findings on the inaccessibility of internships, but the CIPD has come out with an idea for a ‘training wage’ for interns, suggesting that this will enable more employers to pay interns.

This is a rate of £2.50 an hour for anyone working as an intern – the same as anyone working as an apprentice. According to the CIPD it is a ‘good solution’, because if all businesses were urged to pay full NMW to an intern, ’30-40 per cent of opportunities would disappear’.

Well let them, I say.

If business can’t host an intern, can’t pay a (very) reasonable wage and can’t see why this isn’t wrong, the ‘opportunity’ becomes another form of exploitation. The CIPD’s proposed solution, a halfway-house between nothing at all and NMW, is insulting to graduates coming out of university having just invested the best part of £25,000 in building their skills and abilities.

The parallel with apprenticeships is also slightly deceptive. Apprentices embark on a well-laid out course of work and study, with controls over the type of work they can do, and how much time they should spend at work. If interns had these sorts of safety nets, and a prescribed course of learning on the job, the ‘training wage’ might be more appropriate as it would include a package of well-thought-out areas in which the employer would be expected to give them some training.

I also have to take issue with the way in which this ‘training wage’ is presented as some sort of solution to the horrendous lack of social mobility in internships. Take London as an example. Paying young people NMW is still around £2 per hour less than the London Living Wage. So how do we expect an intern to live off half of that, in addition to perhaps having to move to and find a flat in London, unless they are supported by well-off parents or have family already in the area.

The reality of living on NMW in a city like London is stark – much starker than the impact paying it has on an organisation. The CIPD seems not to have thought through the economic realities for the young person, whilst offering concessions to organisations left, right and centre.

Many businesses complain that they are not able to pay interns. My response to that would be to find a new business model. If a profit-making organisation is relying on unpaid workers, that is illegal. The simple message is: if you can’t afford to have interns, don’t offer an internship. Because it’s not an opportunity – it’s exploitation.

Various ways to have your say

NUMBER 1: IPSA- Parliamentary Reform

IPSA have invited the public to comment on their ‘Amendments to the MPs’ Expenses Scheme Rules’. Have a look at this document, in particular these questions:

Q2. How should MPs be able to claim for the payment of travel and lunch expense to interns who are not ‘workers’ and do not have contracts of employment?

How may MPs operate safely within the exemptions provided from paying minimum pay rates within the legislation? 

 Email your answers to: schemeconsultation(at) by the 7th July.

NUMBER 2: Low Pay Commission

Get in touch with us via email if you would like to talk to the Low Pay Commission about your experiences as an intern paid less than the minimum wage. You would need to be free from 3.30pm to 4.30pm on Wednesday 7th July and be able to travel to Tottenham Court Road in London. 

OK there are many many other ways you can have your say but two is enough for today…

The murky Internship Alliance

You might be hearing a little more about something called the ‘Internship Alliance’ over coming weeks and months. They are a newly created pressure group of vested interests and public affairs companies who want to lead discussions with the government about the role internships play in the job market. We, and a few others, have some concerns.

They have styled themselves as being ‘friends of the intern’, but to quote an anonymous intern who alerted us to this story:

Its motivations seem dodgy to say the least. It seems more like a grand plan to make money for some of these organisations by lobbying Government under the guise of making internships better.

Our anonymous intern went on:

One of the organisations involved is Luther Pendragon who, it has been discovered, takes on unpaid interns. This is genuinely quite shocking. I have found three adverts for unpaid internships with Luther Pendragon from the past few months: here, here and here. 

Luther Pendron will be running a full-scale press campaign for the companies involved – and we have recently discovered that some of these companies pay a fee to Luther to be associated with the alliance.

Our anonymous Intern describes another member of the Alliance – Inspiring Interns – who we have written critically of in the past. They make a profit out of the intern industry – getting a fee for arranging an unpaid internship, and then charging the company if the intern is given a paid job! They also boast of having 10+ unpaid interns themselves. It’s a staggering business model, that uses interns like serfs.

We do not believe they have interns’ rights at heart – and I do not want them speaking for me in the national press.

Someone from Inspiring recently wrote this to try and convince companies to sign up to its scheme: 

The answer for many businesses may well be hiring an intern. Interns represent very effective, but inexpensive, labour.

We look forward to being surprised by the Interns Alliance. Anything that ends the current intern culture is undoubtedly a good thing. But we do not think the Alliance is best placed to do this.

Intern Aware is involved, who really do care about getting minimum wage for interns, but as ex-member Tanya from Graduate Fog wrote, she had to spend the Alliance meeting fighting for interns rights. That should be the uniting factors behind an intern pressure group not something to debate! 

Tanya left because she didn’t like the morals or the motivations of the companies involved, and as the anonymous intern who originally emailed us said:

I’d seriously consider how it looks for you to be associated with this Internships Alliance group, they seem like they are in it for the wrong reasons.

Beware any press coverage that comes from them over the summer. 

NB: Other groups involved, according to a comment on the Graduate Fog website include: WEXO, STEP, Give A Grad A Go, The Student Room, Wikijob, Rate My Placement, Enternships, Student Beans, AIESEC, Brave New Talent and Business In The Community.

Internships are, like, so cool

After watching Avatar lots of people got depressed because they weren’t living on the beautiful planet Pandora, where God is a lovely tree and everyone is giant and blue. Aside from a few hopefuls who got naked and ‘blued up’- the rest of us got on with living in our own weird world. Just how weird is demonstrated in news such as this - Kanye West and Lady Gaga want to be interns - and more generally ‘posh work experience is “the 21st-century answer to the old-school Season”’. All the rich kids want it, and more importantly all the rich kids can get it off their Dad. Rather than coming out as a debutante with your own personal ball, summers are spent making coffee in an office. Eh??

This change is noticeable - internships are often viewed as more desirable than actual paid jobs. I’ve never been seduced by this PR, and coincidentally, have never watched The Hills, Gossip Girl and all the other programmes that feature really fit interns - oh yeah, also The West Wing, and let’s not forget the Daddy of them all – the Bill Clinton - Monica Lewinsky saga.

Read all about it here and here, and here.

I miss the 90s

Commercial Slavery

My name is Ben,

I am not an alcoholic..

I do part time lecturing in Graphic Design at a College of Art, dealing with BA Graphic Design students. Part of my work is to help create the scenarios whereby students have things in place before contacting studios and agencies to gain work placements, and this new Americanised idea of ‘Internships’. Unpaid experience, which in a lot of cases is being left on the periphery of the industry for some weeks and not utilised as much as the could  and should be.

Some do get paid, and that is how it should be, if they play an active and contributory role whilst they are there. I thought slavery had been abolished? Graduating designers are being taken on for 3 month stretches and not sure what the conclusion may be…fresh blood as they are, full of pulsing creativity, working free and being forced to live with the worry of debt and feeling a burden. Not the best way to nurture the creative resource and the talents of the future.

When will the powers that be, realise that there should be a system of payment for graduates that echoes the need within the industry for new talent…funded by the Government, or a pool resource from the industry? Although they are job seekers what repayment do they get from the fees they paid and the blood, sweat and real tears that the ones I work with attain…all for free. 

Seems it is time for recognition of this system and change for the better.

A rant? Or a concern.

The Music Business

In mid-April we caught up with a former intern at a national orchestra who has managed to land a job with the same company he interned for. This is what he had to say about his experiences in the education and fundraising departments.

Q: Where are you working now?

A: I’m working for an Orchestra.

Q: And what do you do?

A: I work in the education department.

Q: Brilliant, how did you get that job?

A: I started off as an intern in the fundraising department. And I soon realised that I didn’t want to do fundraising so I asked to help out in music education whilst I was doing my internship. Then a part-time role came up. So when I finished my internship I started doing that and I never left.

Continue reading ‘The Music Business’

Interns! Know your rights!

The TUC (trades union congress) has developed a handy website that spells out your rights as an intern. If you’re not sure whether you’re allowed sick leave or holidays as an intern, then click here. If you’re feeling exploited and over worked then click here. If you’re just a bit confused about the legality of the whole thing then click here.

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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