Government guidelines say interns should be paid

Geraldine Kendall, 27.01.2011
New code stipulates minimum wage for interns
New guidelines aimed at creating fairer access to the workplace recommend that internships should be paid if they are not a compulsory part of a university course.

Last week, the Gateways to the Professions Collaborative Forum and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) published a set of guidelines for employers entitled the Common Best Practice Code for High-Quality Internships.

The code was developed after a 2009 government report, Unleashing Aspiration, found that a culture of unpaid internships and nepotism made it harder for disadvantaged employees to gain a foothold in their chosen profession.

Bodies representing a wide range of sectors, including Arts Council England, have endorsed the new guidelines.

According to the code, organisations running internship programmes should pay candidates at least the statutory minimum wage – unless they are volunteers or students undertaking work placements as part of their studies.
The code states that internships should be advertised in the same way as regular positions and recruitment should be open and rigorous, ensuring fair and equal access for all.

The guidelines also advise employers to fully structure internships in advance, setting out clearly what candidates will be responsible for and what skills they will gain, to ensure both intern and employer reap the maximum benefit.

A recent Museums Association poll found that seven in 10 respondents thought unpaid internships were exploitative.

In response to the poll, Janet Vitmayer, the chief executive of the Horniman Museum, called on museums to lobby funders for better support of salaried placements.

Maurice Davies, the MA’s head of policy, said: “These guidelines are very welcome and I urge museums to do as much as they can to follow them.

“Internships done well are a great thing. Done badly they can be exploitative and discriminatory, damaging museums' relationships with their communities.”

To read the internship code, click here

Janet Vitmayer: Let's keep the intern debate in perspective

Seven in 10 regard unpaid internships as exploitative