We think internships and work placements are amazing. They give students opportunities to learn, understand and gain incredible experience and networks. But some companies and organisations are taking advantage. They know how hard it can be to get a job in the creative sector so they think they can get away without paying their interns. This is unfair, this is wrong and its illegal.
If you are an intern you may have the right to be paid at least the national minimum wage. We want to thank those companies that pay their interns, and tell other companies they need to start paying.
We want to make sure that you know your rights, can get help if you have done an illegal internship and give you the opportunity to sign up and show your support against illegal internships.
Nearly 2,000 of you have signed up to the campaign so far! Amazing!
For information on your rights please take a look at the amazing guide which has been produced by Carrotworkers' Collective a London-based group who are undertaking research into and action against illegal unpaid internships. The Carrotworkers' guide to surviving internships can be found here.
Our very own student and multi-time intern Libby Page also has a brilliant blog All work and no pay. Check out her latest video post here.
The Students' Union are currently taking action to protect your rights. Last week a number of UAL students protested outside a central-London based PR company widely known not to pay their interns. Please get in touch if you'd like to be involved in any future stunts!
Here is a little info on key things to remember.
There are many different guidelines as to what an internship actually is. Here is a definition:
Interns are on short term agreements with clear roles and responsibilities, contributing to the work of the organisation and get paid at least the national minimum wage. They should have a contractual agreement and are classed under ‘worker’ status in the eyes of the law.
Work placements are genuine learning and development opportunities, that do not last longer than 4 weeks, cover travel expenses, offer an opportunity for a student to learn new skills from an expert, do not state duties and responsibilities, have flexible hours of work and do not have a contract.
According to the law, anyone doing any sort of internship where you have a contract, or set working hours and days, or set deadlines or tasks, is entitled to at least the National Minimum Wage. In a lot of cases, even as an intern, you are classed as a ‘worker’ in the eyes of the law. A ‘worker’ is anyone who has either: a) a contract of employment, or b) any other contract (written or implied) in which they agree to carry out personally any work or services for another party. This then means that you are entitled to the national minimum wage.
An internship is meant to be an opportunity for you to gain invaluable industry experience and pick up, as well as develop, skills essential to working in your chosen field. That does not include making the perfect cup of tea or coffee (unless you are training to become a Barista!).
Unpaid internships make it increasingly hard for those who cannot afford to work for free, so anyone who has a part time job in order to finance themselves are forced to turn down opportunities to gain experience.
Unfortunately, not everyone seems to want to follow the rules around internships. As a result, many students trying to break into the arts industry end up being exploited and unfairly treated. Anyone who is doing work that is not for a charity, on a government scheme or contributing to an academic course is entitled to be paid.
Even if you have completed an internship and at the time agreed to it being unpaid, you can still go back to the company if you feel that you were doing work which you should have been paid for, and ask them to back pay you. This is where the Students’ Union and InternAware can support and guide you through.
Examples of successful tribunals
There are already a number of cases in which people have requested payment from companies they interned with in the past, and have won.
NOW magazine recently paid out £800 to a student who interned with them.
The Arcadia group, (TopShop, TopMan, Miss Selfridge etc) recently agreed to back pay all their interns from the past year as well as agreeing to pay future interns and abide by the law.
Stella McCartney also recently agreed to stop hiring interns on an unpaid basis after receiving negative press attention. This proves that companies know that what they are doing is wrong and that they are afraid of the damage it can do to their reputations. Most companies think that interns are too scared to stand up and demand change and that is why it is so important that we send them a strong message that students are not here to be exploited.
Good or bad? We want to hear from you!
For more information or to talk to us about your experience of internships get in touch with Fairooz Aniqa (Culture and Diversity officer)
We want to make sure we celebrate the companies and organisations that offer brilliant internships and work with those companies and organisations who could do better. And we'll keep your information confidential.
Some handy links for more info and guidelines
Information about internships in the Arts (pdf).
Further work placement guidelines from University of the Arts' Creative Careers
A lovely campaign group called Intern Aware who have been fighting against unpaid internships
If you agree with the campaign or want some more information about how to take action and what your rights are as an intern. We'll let you know where to look for the best internship opportunities too!