David Cameron was accused of ‘gross insensitivity’ last night after it was revealed that internships with City hedge funds were sold to wealthy Tories’ children for thousands of pounds to raise cash for the party.
The Unpaid Intern, Legal or Not
With job openings scarce for young people, the number of unpaid internships has climbed in recent years, leading federal and state regulators to worry that more employers are illegally using such internships for free labor.
Convinced that many unpaid internships violate minimum wage laws, officials in Oregon, California and other states have begun investigations and fined employers. Last year, M. Patricia Smith, then New York’s labor commissioner, ordered investigations into several firms’ internships. Now, as the federal Labor Department’s top law enforcement official, she and the wage and hour division are stepping up enforcement nationwide.
Many regulators say that violations are widespread, but that it is unusually hard to mount a major enforcement effort because interns are often afraid to file complaints. Many fear they will become known as troublemakers in their chosen field, endangering their chances with a potential future employer.
“If you’re a for-profit employer or you want to pursue an internship with a for-profit employer, there aren’t going to be many circumstances where you can have an internship and not be paid and still be in compliance with the law,” said Nancy J. Leppink, the acting director of the department’s wage and hour division.
Ms. Leppink said many employers failed to pay even though their internships did not comply with the six federal legal criteria that must be satisfied for internships to be unpaid. Among those criteria are that the internship should be similar to the training given in a vocational school or academic institution, that the intern does not displace regular paid workers and that the employer “derives no immediate advantage” from the intern’s activities — in other words, it’s largely a benevolent contribution to the intern. Continue reading
by Polly Curtis, Bonnie Friend and Sam Jones
guardian.co.uk, Friday 31 July 2009
Alex Donovan, 22, has been trying to break into the film world since graduating from Nottingham University last year with a degree in American studies.
After numerous unpaid stints as a runner, assistant director, editor, camera assistant, scriptwriter, website tester and general office skivvy, he is signing on and working unpaid in an east London theatre.
“It’s immensely frustrating and I’ve got to the point now where I can’t do internships,” he said. “I’ve been on the dole for six months and I can’t get bar work and a lot of high street recruitment agencies won’t take me on as I don’t have recognisable skills. They won’t even take my CV. I knew film was notoriously difficult to get into, but I’d hoped to be in a paid job after six months.”
Despite the setbacks, Donovan is determined to persevere. “It would be very easy to get depressed and there are nights when I think, ‘Oh my God, why am I doing this?’ but I will definitely keep pushing away to get into film; I would hate to end up doing something I didn’t want to do.”
Research by the National Council for Work Experience suggests that Donovan is not alone, and that his predicament will be shared by thousands more graduates this year. Continue reading