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January 10, 2013

Advertising for unpaid interns should be made illegal, says NUJ

By Andrew Pugh

The National Union of Journalists has called for adverts for unpaid internships to be outlawed.

General secretary Michelle Stanistreet told the Low Pay Commission that while low pay was an issue across the media industry, working for free was becoming a “worrying trend”.

In its submission to the commission the union said: “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.

“The practice continues to exploit dreams and exclude new talent, undermining the diversity of our profession.

“Employers in the industry should be warned we will continue to take on those who exploit young people and newcomers to the industry.

“We cannot have a situation where only those who can afford to work for nothing are given a chance to get a break in the industry.”

The union added that “advertising unpaid internships should be made illegal and that HMRC (HM  Revenue and Customs) should view such ads as an attempt to breach the law”.

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The NUJ’s legal department has in the past issued a number of “take down” notices when jobs have been advertised detailing employee roles as internships without pay.

“Unpaid ‘internships’ have become the scourge of the industry,” said the union.

“Legislation should ensure the NME (National Minimum Wage) is afforded to interns to enable them to enforce their right to pay without the requirement to prove they are a 'worker' or an 'employee' in order to assert their rights.”

In 2011 the union claimed victory in 'cashback for interns' campaign after Keri Hudson was awarded £1024.98 in from TPG Web Publishing at an employment tribunal in central London.

The tribunal found Hudson had a right to be paid for intern work she carried out over two months at TPG's My Village website.

The campaign was launched after the NUJ learned that some interns were being kept on for more than six months, working for nothing but basic expenses while carrying out work expected of a full-time employee.  

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