Slave Labour

Apparently the Public Relations industry is one of the worst offenders for employing unpaid workers, despite the existence of the PRCA’s Intern Programme, which commits members to paying interns working for longer than a month at least the national minimum wage.

A PR Week article in April stated that ten per cent of the 100 firms reported by Intern Aware, which fights for fairly paid internships, to HM Revenue and Customs are either PR agencies or companies advertising PR roles. HMRC is currently looking into whether employment law has been broken through the use of unpaid interns.

If you don’t pay someone on an internship surely it must be because you don’t see the value they deliver your business? That can only be because you don’t have enough of value for them to do or you have taken on someone who’s simply useless at the job.

If it’s the former, just don’t take people on. If you can’t give them decent work experience because you don’t have enough to do yourself, then what’s the point? Neither of you will get anything out of it!

A decent intern should be seen as a potential new member of staff, a junior account executive that can be moulded into your firm’s way of doing things. They should therefore be treated and paid like any other member of staff. If they turn out to be useless at their job (and I’ve come across some incredibly lazy students, but also some brilliant ones), then they should also be treated equitably and asked to leave as part of a probation period.

Taking on a decent intern means that the favour works both ways – you get an excellent junior member of staff and they get the experience they crave. Why wouldn’t you pay them if they add value? If you don’t, surely it’s tantamount to slave labour? Shame on you PR agencies that don’t play fair!

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