Have you worked without being paid a wage in the media at any point over the past six years? Were you taken on as an unpaid “intern” or asked to extend your work experience into a far longer period than you had initially applied for?
If so then read on – you could be eligible to make a claim
Internships have become commonplace in the media and other similar industries.
The NUJ fully supports properly structured work placements for journalists to gain valuable experience in the industry and recognises how valuable work experience is on a CV to potential employers.
Unfortunately, some employers exploit the genuine goodwill and ambition of new entrants to the media industry. In some cases, unpaid “internships” are used by employers as a way to get work that should be done by employees.
When the NUJ heard of some interns being kept on for more than six months – working for nothing but basic expenses, whilst carrying out work expected of an employee – we took action. Now, tribunal judgments, for example when the NUJ helped Keri Hudson to successfully sue TPG Web Publishing, have made clear that many interns who have worked for little or no money could be entitled to claim the Minimum Wage for their efforts
Former interns may be able to claim up to six years after they finished their unpaid stint, through the courts. The Minimum Wage rules do not apply, however, to students on organised work experience placements or volunteers. Internships tend to be longer than work experience, with a greater time commitment and deadlines, and involve making a evidenced contribution to the work of the organisation.
Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said: “This practice continues to exploit dreams and exclude new talent, undermining the diversity of our profession, just when we should be nurturing and supporting the people coming into the industry. Employers in the media should be warned; we will continue to take on those who seek to exploit young people and new comers to the industry.”
If you believe you have worked as an unpaid intern and could be entitled to the minimum wage you should contact the NUJ for assistance in the first instance. Contact: email@example.com
The NUJ has successfully negotiated the London Living Wage rate for interns working for the British Science Association. Three-month internships for science communications workers on the online forum Science in Society
had originally been advertised at the statutory Minimum Wage (£6.08 per hour). The Association has now agreed to pay the London Living Wage rate of £8.30. Full story here
The NUJ is backing a TUC & NUS campaign to protect interns from abuse.
Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, joined an event at TUC headquarters in central London which will begin a year of campaign activity for fairer and better internships.
The TUC has launched a 'Rights for Interns' smartphone application
. The phone app can be downloaded
free of charge. It features tools to help interns evaluate their own internship, or ones they are considering, as well as general guidance on work rights they are entitled to and minimum wage rates. Interns who think they should be paid can use the app to find out what they are owed.
The launch heard about the ways organisations exploit people on work experience and internships, including one young woman who did work experience with a national magazine and was presented with a pooper scooper and told to walk the editor’s dog.
At a conference organised by the TUC, Ed Davey, employment minister, said: “While we believe that internships can be a valuable learning experience for young people and it is important we not close these opportunities down, we will not stand by and see people being exploited. Exploitation is unacceptable and where employment law is being broken we will take action.”
He said that HMRC will be conducting a targeted enforcement campaign in sectors where internships are common. There is a Pay and Work Rights Helpline 0800 917 2368
. More details and an online complaints and enquiry form can be found at http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Dl1/Directories/DG_177940
Your union rep can help you in this process. If you are not sure who your union rep is, then please contact the NUJ. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hazel Blears MP has introduced a five-minute rule Bill, Internships (Advertising and Regulation),
to prohibit the advertising of long-term unpaid internships and to regulate conditions of employment for paid internships. Speaking at a meeting at the House of Commons before the Bill was laid down, Donnacha DeLong, NUJ past-president
, said:"It's crazy that we've come to the stage of a proposal to ban ads for unpaid internships because of HMRC's failure to act. Imagine if bank robbers publicly advertised their plans to break the law, I doubt the police would be so slow. Unpaid internships limit the opportunities for young people and damage the industry by replacing paid posts with gross exploitation." See the first reading of the Bill here
The second reading will be 2 February.
The Kernel is sued by former contributors for non-payment
: The London-based blog about the tech start-up scene, the Kernel, is being sued through an employment tribunal for non-payment of thousands of pounds by two of its former contributors, and is said to owe thousands more to other former staff. See full story.
Intern Aware has reported Brendan O'Neill, editor of Spiked Online to HMRC after these remarks in an article for Vice Magazine where he admitted that his interns: “do some work for us” and that his business is reliant on them, saying that: “if a bunch of former film-set interns establish a legal precedent that says interns must be paid, then folk like us will be up shit creek without a young person we can send out at lunchtime to buy us a paddle”.
Journalism is "one of the most socially exclusive of professions" according to a report conducted for the governement by Alan Milburn,the Independent Reviewer on Social Mobility and Child Poverty. His report said: "A generation ago it was perfectly possible for a senior national journalist to have worked their way up from a local paper and to have entered the profession without a university degree. Today, there are fewer such people. Journalism has become almost entirely a degree-only profession. And securing an internship has become a hurdle that has to be cleared for most who aspire to a career in the media industry. These changes have contributed to making journalism one of the most socially exclusive of professions.
In the NUJ's submission to the inquiry, Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said: "Scoop, Evelyn Waugh's classic journalism novel, was set in a time when Oxbridge toffs and socialites ruled the world, inhabited the newsroom of the Daily Beast and became war correspondents. William Boot may have been an accidental interloper, but he still needed to have been to a 'good' school to get his wildlife column. So almost 90 years later is the world of newspapers any better? Sadly the evidence shows that it is still those from privileged backgrounds who get to the top in the media – and the situation is getting worse.
"Competition to get into what is seen as a glamorous industry, at a time when jobs are scarce, has bred a new phenomenon: the unpaid intern. This practice continues to exploit dreams and exclude new talent, undermining the diversity of our profession. Employers in the media should be warned - we will continue to take on those who seek to exploit young people and newcomers to the industry.
"It is vital that a modern, democratic nation has a media that reflects all its citizens and is not a redoubt of the privileged classes. The management of the mainstream media is also the loser if it is not prepared to look for talent beyond a cohort of people who looks like itself." Read the NUJ submission,
More than a fifth of interns working in the PR industry recieve no pay
A survey of more than 150 young PR professionals, by the Public Relations Consultants Association and Intern Aware, has revealed that internships are poorly paid, lack diversity and do not even necessarily lead to a role in the end.
The research found that:
• 23 per cent of respondents revealed they were not paid at all.
• 39 per cent were unpaid but received some expenses.
• 15 per cent were paid the national minimum wage.
• 13 per cent received more than the national minimum wage
Lisa Nandy, MP for Wigan, laid down the following early day motion on internships.
"That this House congratulates the magazines, Elle and Cosmo for agreeing to pay their interns; believes that unpaid internships in the media remain the norm and that this should be challenged; notes that the report to the Cabinet Office entitled Fair Access to Professional Careers by Alan Milburn identifies journalism as `one of the most socially exclusive of professions'; further notes that unpaid internships play a role in excluding many people looking for work in the media industry; further believes that interns in the media profession should be paid for their work; and supports Cashback for Interns, the National Union of Journalists' campaign to protect interns in the media industry.
More paid internships:
Our Internships provide paid work experience and the current salary is £250 per week,Monday-Friday.The Economist
“We offer a competitive salary, a collaborative working environment, a strong intern community and the chance to work on projects that provide invaluable career experience.” For more information
EMI Music offer a range of paid, 6 month internships
in various departments. Internships are mostly based in High Street Kensington, London, and you will receive a salary of £6,500 over the 6 month period.
Is the NUJ trying to stop me getting work experience?
The NUJ supports and actively encourages students and unemployed journalists in obtaining high-quality work experience. We are working with good employers to ensure that work experience placements of up to a month are properly supervised so that participants get the most out of them with real aims and objectives and constructive feedback at the end. There is a different between work experience and employers using work experience to fill jobs that workers should receive a wage for.
I did a two week work experience at my local newspaper in the summer after I finished my exams at school. Can I claim the minimum wage for that?
It is extremely unlikely a short period of work experience like this would qualify as a period for which you can claim unpaid wages.
I did six months full-time unpaid work for my boss, but eventually he gave me a job. Does that mean I can’t claim minimum wage?
You should first seek advice from the NUJ. But if this happened within the past six years you may have grounds for a claim. Just because you eventually got a paid job does not mean you are not entitled for the minimum wage over some or all of the period you worked for without pay. To seek legal advice, please send your name, contact details, membership number and information about your query to email@example.com
But what if I agreed to work for nothing?
In recent decisions Tribunals have found that provided an ‘intern’ falls within the category of a ‘Worker’ they are entitled to the Minimum Wage regardless of what they had apparently agreed with the employer.
Where I work there are loads of unpaid interns doing the same work as me but for no money. What can I do about it?
Contact your local NUJ official in absolute confidence. If you are not sure who to contact email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Why shouldn’t I work for free for as long as I want to if I can afford it?
Working for nothing ultimately undermines and devalues the work of everyone in the industry and makes it more difficult for everyone to get a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. If employers and media organisations believe they can get away with paying people nothing to work for them and can rely on trained and qualified interns to do their work for them, then they will almost certainly do so to boost their profits and reduce their overheads, particularly in an economic downturn.
Our industry is already highly competitive and difficult for less well-off people to get into. It is ultimately the responsibility of all of us to make sure that our industry doesn’t become a hobby that only the very rich can afford to take part in. That’s why whilst we should ensure there are properly regulated work experience placements, we have to also draw a line and demand that everyone working full-time in journalism gets a wage for doing so.
The NUJ is not the only organisation campaigning for better rights for interns. You can also find advice at: