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May 13, 2019updated 30 Sep 2022 7:46am

Monocle intern claims victory and £2,000 after title admits underpaying her

By James Walker

An intern has claimed a victory after receiving a cheque for more than £2,000 from Monocle, settling a dispute over unpaid wages.

Amalia Illgner took Monocle to an employment tribunal over claims she was paid £30 for an eight-hour working day while employed as an intern at its magazine and radio station from 7 August to 30 September 2017.

Illgner was paid £1,170 in total for the near two-month internship, but should have been paid £3,217.50, according to court documents.

She was 36 at the time and was paid an hourly day rate of £3.53, less than half the national minimum wage of £7.50 an hour.

Monocle has now admitted liability for unlawful deductions from wages in settling the claim ahead of now-cancelled employment tribunal hearings scheduled for this week.

In a letter to the Central London Employment Tribunal, seen by Press Gazette, lawyers acting for Monocle said: “The respondent [Winkontent Ltd, which trades as Monocle] no longer intends to continue defending this claim and wishes to avoid it taking up any more the tribunal’s time and resources.

“Accordingly, the respondent confirms that it wishes to admit liability.”

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Winkontent made a pre-tax loss of £1.8m in 2017 on revenues of £15.1m, according to the latest accounts filed with Companies House.

Monocle agreed in March to pay Illgner £2,047.50 in unpaid wages, but the outcome has only now been shared with the press after failed attempts to secure a donation to the Good Law Project from the company.

The Good Law Project, founded by Jolyon Maugham QC, uses litigation to drive changes in the law according to its values. It supported Illgner in her case against Monocle, where she was represented by law firm Dentons.

Illgner refused earlier offers of payment from Monocle, which is owned by editor-in-chief Tyler Brulé, in settling the case without the publisher accepting liability.

In a letter, dated 4 July 2018, seen by Press Gazette, the firm’s legal team told Illgner’s lawyers that they would “make an application for costs against her” if she did not accept cheques sent to her before the publisher admitted liability.

Illgner said the outcome was “a personal victory” and “a victory that will hopefully go some way to end the exploitative and frankly arrogant practices of opportunistic employers”.

She told Press Gazette: “I did want to take it to tribunal really and have an independent person find in my favour… and it would have been quite good in terms of having a really clear ruling to publicly deter other employers who are doing the same kind of thing.

“That’s the whole point of the case really, to deter those employers from these kind of exploitative practices.”

In a statement, Monocle said: “We can confirm that the case involving Amalia Illgner has been settled. Her claim related to an internship period over 18 months ago and changes have since been made to intern pay.

“All of our interns are paid above the National Minimum Wage. We have no further comment to make.”

Monocle has previously claimed it is “compliant with all legal requirements and with the terms of the national minimum wage” in paying interns.

Maugham QC has said he would still consider bringing a private criminal prosecution against Monocle if it were to emerge that the magazine had underpaid interns since Illgner came forward with her claims.

Maugham has previously said he wanted “Tyler Brule’s Monocle to learn that it cannot buy off justice in the civil – or if necessary the criminal – courts”.

In a tell-all Guardian article published last year, Illgner detailed her time working at the magazine’s offices in Marylebone, London, two years ago.

She wrote: “Halfway through my internship, I landed my first front-page piece for Monocle’s Summer Weekly newspaper.

“It was a personal coup, but after 20 hours of research and writing – done in my own time – the thrill of a byline paled against the glaring fact that I was not being paid for the story.

“The privilege of working for almost nothing no longer seemed like a viable way to get ahead. A few months later, I would start proceedings against Monocle for unpaid wages.”

Global affairs and lifestyle magazine Monocle launched in 2007. It publishes ten issues a year, with an average circulation of  84,300 (ABC figures), along with two special editions.

The group also broadcasts 24-hour digital radio station Monocle 24 and two “seasonal” standalone magazines, The Forecast and the Escapist, and a limited newspaper run in the summer and winter.

Picture: Monocle

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