Watch out for internships

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I’ve noticed recently that a prominent second tier voluntary sector agency in my borough, Hammersmith & Fulham, have been offering the opportunity to work for 32.5 hours per week without getting paid, for up to one year, as an ‘intern’.

The ‘Intern’  will be accountable to the Director; they will have a role description as a ‘Volunteer Services Manager’ who will, among other things, ensure the effective delivery of a comprehensive information and placement service to people interested in undertaking voluntary work, and they will supervise and manage volunteers.

When I suggested to the agency concerned that this sounded like a job, the response from their Human Resources Deputy Director was that:

“We do not get sufficient funding to cover our core services….it helps people get back into work and to gain confidence.”

The response of the Director of this organisation to my doubts was to leave a message on my work answerphone saying that I didn’t understand what interns were all about and that I was ignorant.

Another interesting point is that the successful applicant should have experience and understanding of equal opportunities. No doubt they will also need to be from a background where they can afford to work more or less full time for up to a year without getting paid.

I have asked the Low Pay Commission to investigate the possibility that this may be in breach of minimum wage legislation.

The dubious practice of describing workers as interns seems to be rising along with unemployment.

Peter Bird
Fulham Good Neighbour Service

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