It is with a large dose of geek joy that I read an email we just received from the British Library Web Archiving programme- they want to archive Interns Anonymous as part of their project to ‘represent aspects of UK documentary heritage’. This means they take care of every part of the site, even backing it up on a hard drive (in case the internet breaks?), so researchers in the future can read it.
As a history PhD-er, I’m pretty up for seeing something I co-set up become history before my very eyes…as our Policy-Officer-Hero-of-the-Hour, Joseph Thomas says, ‘I never doubted whether we were culturally significant. I think this warrants a blog post’.
If you’re reading this, future researcher, you can imagine me sitting in a cafe writing this, imagining you reading this.
On what has got to be one of the best things to come out of doing this ‘job’, last week I got to go to Brussels for the day to talk to other European organisations working for better internships. Not only did I get to see how it must have been like for people writing a constitution for their new nation- I also met lots of very interesting and frighteningly multi-lingual people. I took a dictaphone along with me, so click on the soundcloud below to hear a bit more about what’s going on in Europe.
So the proof of the pudding is in the eating. The delicious pudding being the new guidelines regarding the payment of the national minimum wage published by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) (I was about to type business, enterprise and regulatory reform, I miss the old names, I really do)
Of course we’re really pleased with these guidelines because they support the idea that NMW regulations should apply to all potential workers, including unpaid interns. The guidance is comprehensive and includes tests which employers can do themselves to work out when they should or shouldn’t be paying the NMW to their staff. NMW regulations and the definition of intern or worker are often characterised as confusing but we hope that these legal tests will provide some clarity to employers who are genuinely not sure whether they are obliged to pay their interns.
As the TUC has stated and as the evidence submitted to the Low Pay Commission this year has reinforced:
The growing misuse of interns is becoming one of the biggest abuses of the minimum wage.
And by consequence, the TUC adds,
It’s good to see the government finally taking this issue seriously, and it’s essential that today’s guidance is used by young people to ensure that they get paid what they are due.
So what’s the caveat? Guidelines and the law need to be both publicised and reinforced. So firstly, we’d like to promote these guidelines far and wide- but also see the government doing the same (we know there have been a lot of cuts to communications budgets but what’s the point of publishing guidelines if no one reads them?) Secondly, as the TUC has stated, rules mean nothing without the necessary reinforcement- so, for example, the Pay and Work rights helpline needs to be able to follow up complaints and persistent offenders need to be investigated.
Lib Dem MP Bob Russell tabled a motion saying that “those undertaking work experience should not be offered jobs that would otherwise be filled by paid employees.”
The Home Office were allegedly employing 20 interns while making staff redundant.
This situation is not new and has been happening across every industry since we set up this blog. The first example we heard of was a commercial art gallery which sacked its lowest level of staff and gave their unpaid interns all their responsibilities.
The interns working for the Home Office were working in the UK’s main office for immigration and asylum enquiries.
Some articles for you to peruse over on BBC news, here and here. Graduate unemployment has risen to 8.9% of the total graduate population, which represents a 17-year high. Degrees with smaller than average unemployment rates include Geography and Psychology- who knew?
Two things to say about these articles. One, we haven’t had this level of graduate unemployment since 1993. In 2010 there are more graduates in total, so higher actual numbers of graduates are unemployed than in 1993. Two, unpaid interns are probably not included in that figure because they cannot claim JSA.
With unemployment, unpaid internships and soon to be bank-breaking tuition fees does anyone else think that a mass exodus is on the cards? What’s the best way of avoiding the curse of the student loan? Get out of the UK…
If we are going to ask students to pay tens of thousands of pounds for a degree then we need to have a proper debate about whether that degree is actually worth the investment. I loved my degree but was it worth £18,000?
On leaving Uni and spending my first year after graduating being rejected from every job I applied for – I realised that 3 years of study had in no way prepared me for the world of work. I had nothing that employers wanted in a potential recruit.
Graduates see unpaid internships as the only avenue into paid work and increasingly, employers see unpaid internships as the solution to staffing problems. If you can’t get a decent job with your degree how exactly can it pay itself back?
Clearly, a degree does not guarantee a high salary and success – I am sure many of your friends are testament to this. But then, back in the day going to university wasn’t a cold-hard economic decision.
Until we address the problem of graduate unemployment and the uncertainty in the job market, we cannot expect prospective students to saddle themselves with debts the size of mortgages.
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.