A government funded so-called charity is today encouraging employers to break minimum wage laws and hire unpaid interns with “no financial obligations in terms of salary”.
The advice is being offered by Fair Train who last year were paid £283,000 of tax payer’s money to promote unpaid work schemes and workfare. The organisation are currently holding a Work Experience Week with a different form of unpaid work celebrated everyday. Yesterday it was the turn of unpaid – and soon to be mandatory – Traineeships. Today they have decided to focus on internships, with their official guidance (pdf) suggesting they need not be paid and that a placement could last up to a year.
In almost all cases unpaid internships are illegal. According to the government: “An intern is entitled to the National Minimum Wage if they count as a worker.” What this means is that anybody who actually does some work for an organisation, unless they are a charity volunteer or it is part of en educational study programme, should be paid at least the minimum wage. This specifically applies if this work is done for a “benefit in kind, eg the promise of a contract or future work.” Astonishingly Fair Train even seem to be encouraging employers to offer exactly this, saying that: “Many employers use internships to train and evaluate potential new recruits before offering them permanent employment, creating a win:win situation for both the young person and the employer.”
Several companies have been taken to court and forced to backpay wages due to hiring unpaid interns. Fair Train don’t mention this in their guidance. In fact they don’t mention interns getting paid at all, even as a recommendation. It is not even a requirement to qualify for one of their bogus Work Experience Quality Standard awards which they say exist to ensure unpaid work placements are of a high standard. It appears that a company could qualify for a Gold Level Quality Standard award and still be flouting the law by using unpaid interns. What a joke. Just watch them fucking wriggle now.
You can report unpaid internship at: http://www.internaware.org/report_an_unpaid_internship