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Interns - don't take the p***

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Everybody knows that the creative industry is a hard field to crack into when you are first starting out. Everyone also knows that job offers mostly come about because of who you know, rather than what you know and whatever vast sum your student loan is currently clocking in at. So it is no surprise that internships with top companies are becoming as over subscribed as the job ads themselves. Unfortunately, tight fisted employers are taking advantage of this system by treating their interns not as carefully chosen prospective bright sparks for the future of their company but as free labour, otherwise known as slaves and it's about time this was abolished as after all, it's 2013 people.


I'm sure everyone reading this has heard about a fellow student, friend's younger sibling or child who has demonstrated total dedication, commitment and hard work for as long as is humanly possible without earning any cashola only to be shunted out the door and replaced by the next poor unsuspecting soul. Continually rolling in new blood to run a companies admin role is a disgusting way to carry on and it's happening everywhere.


Gov.uk states that students required to do an internship for less than 1 year as part of a UK-based further or higher education course aren’t entitled to the National Minimum Wage, nor are voluntary workers or those who are 'shadowing' another employee and simply learning and observing.  However, if you are over 16 and working in a position which is helping a company generate profit then you should jolly well be getting paid for it.


People's time is a precious thing and no one can survive without money. People's creative energy is even more precious, especially if it has a talent behind it.


A 2009 Employment Tribunal case found that a young woman (Nicola Vetta) working for a film company (London Dreams Motion Pictures) was eligible for the National Minimum Wage even though she had initially agreed only to receive expenses.


Whilst a lot of internships are managed responsibly and prove invaluable for gaining experience, networking and more often than not, landing a job at the end of it, there is just no excuse for making people work for free unless you are a charity.


Last year it was revealed that the multimillionaire former prime minister Tony Blair had been using unpaid "volunteers" in his office for three months at a time and a day after the Guardian published details of a possible investigation by HMRC, which enforces the minimum wage, Tony Blair magically agreed to stump up the minimum wage for his workers.


Part of the problem is the desperate times we are living in and the notion that working for no reward may somehow prove your dedication to a job or a company but interns themselves need to start standing up for themselves and demanding what is fair and right. In my early years as a music journalist I quite happily worked for free, putting in hours and hours of my time into interviews and articles and never seeing a penny for my toils. It is demeaning and unfair. I now run my own business and even in the early days when I was living hand-to-mouth I have never brought anyone in for a days work without paying them the minimum wage.


If you are an employer who uses interns on a regular basis it's time to think about what they are really getting out of the role, or if it's actually only you who benefits at the end of the day. This also goes for any other people who are doing your website or your graphics - pay them! If you are currently in your 2nd year of interning you are obviously valuable enough to the company that you deserve some dollar! The law says so. Don't let the man take the mickey.

 

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By Jessica Hazel

 

 

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