We’re obviously excited. Nick Clegg’s social mobility policy is taking unpaid internships to task. Articles in The Telegraph and The Guardian, as well as a report on the Today programme have underlined the importance of making sure internships are available to all, not just those whose parents can afford to put them up or ‘whisper in the ear’ of their mate at the ‘tennis club’ (does anyone actually do that?)
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg says he wants to stop people getting on in life purely because of “who they know”.
As he launches the government’s social mobility strategy, Mr Clegg said no-one should get an unfair advantage because their parents have “met somebody at the tennis club or the golf club”.
He is planning to end all informal work placements in Whitehall – and will encourage businesses to do the same.
He urged firms to make internships – often a vital gateway to a chosen career – more transparent and financially viable to the less well-off.
That meant covering out-of-pocket expenses or offering a wage.
Companies are being asked to sign a new compact including a commitment to ensuring fair access to internships.
Whitehall is set to lead the way, with Civil Service internships advertised formally from 2012.
This is fantastic. For an Internship campaign group this is surely the equivalent of Christmas. But we weren’t called ‘admirably bolshie’ for nothing. The devil will be in the detail. If I was Harriet Harman – due to question Clegg on this at 12 – I would question and ask:
- This is a White Paper – not legislation. Is this just a PR stunt or will the fight against unpaid internships continue beyond today or this week?
- Will Clegg sort out his own party on this issue? As Guido Fawkes pointed out this morning – yesterday the Lib Dem head office advertised for a string of unpaid positions. Do as I say not as I do?
- Does fellow cabinet member Philip Hammond still stand by his claim that: “[it’s] an abuse of tax-payers funding to pay for something that is available for nothing”
- Iain Duncan-Smith’s Centre for Social Justice is advertising for an 11-month ‘voluntary internship’, there’s one catch however as the intern needs to work full-time. Remind me how working full-time is voluntary? And how is it possible to live on expenses only? USING THE WORD ‘VOLUNTARY’ DOES NOT MAKE IT VOLUNTARY
Most importantly, if you read the report, detail on NMW is hazey at best.
We will continue to encourage employers to open up their employment methods, and we are asking business to offer internships openly and transparently and provide financial support to ensure fair access. This financial support could consist of either payment of at least the appropriate national minimum wage rate, or alternatively payment of reasonable out of pocket expenses in compliance with national minimum wage laws.
We want to improve understanding of the application of national minimum wage legislation to internships and ensure that employers comply with it. Where an individual is entitled to the minimum wage they should recieve it and we take failure to do so very seriously. We are updating our guidance on payment of work experience including internships to ensure that employers and individuals are clear about their rights and responsibilities. We will ensure enforcement of the national minimum wage continues to be effective, and resources are focused where they will have maximum impact. Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs are currently considering targeted enforcement in sectors where internships are commonplace, with a view to carrying out enforcement activity in 2011/12. Young people who feel they have had their minimum wage rights abused are encouraged to contact our confidential Pay and Work Rights Helpline on 0800 917 2368.
We hope this does not mean an update on guidance which allows employers to get out of paying interns minimum wage. The law as it stands is currently very clear. If you work set outs, doing set tasks then you are due minimum wage.
HM Revenue & Customs will launch a crackdown in professions such as law and journalism where work experience is commonplace, to ensure that people are paid the national minimum wage or receive out of pocket expenses.
Ironically – the Indy is currently being taken to court for not paying an intern. Crucially the “or receive out of pocket expenses” offers an easy get out clause.
Anyway – lets not be picky just yet. Lets celebrate that internships are center stage in the news agenda for at least one day.