Fair pay for interns

Posted: 13 June 2011

Paid internships in Parliament up for grabs (April 8, 2014)

Hazel is urging people from Salford with an interest in politics to apply to do a paid internship in Parliament.

The cross-party Speaker’s Parliamentary Placements Scheme aims to open up the House of Commons to people from disadvantaged backgrounds who would be unable to afford to do an unpaid internship in London.

It was set up by Salford and Eccles Labour MP Hazel Blears in 2011 and she wants more people from Salford to apply for the scheme, which is open to all ages.

Applications for the 2014/15 scheme must be completed by next Monday, April 14.

Previous applicants from Salford, Kay Nuttall and John McKenna were successful in securing places, and they have joined Ms Blears in urging more local people to put their names forward.

From October, ten successful candidates will each work in the London office of an MP from one of the main three parties from Mondays-Thursdays.

They will help to manage the MP’s diary, deal with case work and carry out research. Then, on Fridays they will spend time in different departments of the House of Commons to gain a behind-the-scenes understanding of how Parliament works.

They will be paid throughout the nine-month scheme and help with the cost of accommodation is also available.

The scheme is being sponsored by the Social Mobility Foundation, Royal Mail and global construction and engineering firm CH2M Hill, with support from other employers.

Hazel, who is campaigning to end the culture of unpaid internships among employers including MPs, said: “The scheme has been a huge success and I have seen so many of our interns really grow as people and learn new skills which will be of huge benefit to them in the future.

“I passionately believe that nobody should be denied access to valuable opportunities because of their upbringing or how much money they and their family have.

“When that happens, whole areas of public life like national politics become dominated by people from the same better-off backgrounds and they do not reflect our diverse communities.

“People from Salford who apply for this scheme will have as much chance of getting a place as anyone from any town, city or village, and the experiences of Kay and John are proof that they will reap the rewards if they are successful.”

John McKenna, 33, moved from the family home in Baines Avenue, Irlam to take up a paid internship with former home secretary Alan Johnson, with whom he has just been offered a permanent job.

“I graduated from the University of Salford as a mature student in 2012 but I couldn’t find a job in politics,” said single-dad John, who has an 11-year-old son.

“There’s no way I could have afforded to save up to do an unpaid internship in London – I would have had to have gone without eating.

“The scheme has been brilliant and the staff have been great – and the fact they’ve now offered me a job shows they need a northern voice down here.

“I would encourage anyone from Salford who is interested in politics to apply.”

Kay Nuttall had graduated from the University of Salford with a degree in Social Policy and was doing a part-time cleaning job when she applied for the scheme in 2011. She was offered a place and did her internship with Ms Blears, taking her young son Harley, now seven, to London with her.

“I couldn’t believe the news when I was told that I had a place on the scheme,” said Kay, who now works as a PA at Swinton building firm EJ Kane.

“I can remember thinking ‘opportunities like this don’t come to people like me from my background”.

“No matter how much you read, or how much you think you know about politics, you cannot replace the experience and knowledge you gain from actually working in the thick of it and seeing an inside view of how Parliament works.”

Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, said: “I believe that Parliament should be representative of society as a whole and should be accessible to people from all kinds of backgrounds.

“The Speaker’s Parliamentary Placements Scheme has already opened the door to Parliament to people who have not previously had the chance to work here.

“Thanks to the leadership of Hazel Blears and the help of the Social Mobility Foundation the scheme has changed lives for the better.”

David Johnston, Chief Executive of the Social Mobility Foundation, said: “The Speaker’s Scheme is a fantastic opportunity for people who really want to get into politics but don’t have connections and can’t afford to work unpaid.

“In previous years the scheme has made a real impact on both the participants themselves – who have often secured jobs within Parliament – the offices they work in and Parliament more widely.”

You can apply for the scheme by filling out a form at http://www.socialmobility.org.uk/programmes/speakers-parliamentary-placements-scheme/ by Monday, April 14.

If you have any questions please email speakers@socialmobility.org.uk

Hazel welcomes new paid interns to Parliament (December 20, 2013)

Hazel welcomed a new intake of paid interns to the House of Commons.

She launched the cross party Speakers’ Parliamentary Placement Scheme in 2011 in conjunction with the Social Mobility Foundation.

Hazel began the scheme after becoming concerned that some MPs were using unpaid interns in their London offices.

She feared that this meant that only people from better off backgrounds could afford to do unpaid internships in the House of Commons.

Under the scheme, interns are paired with an MP and help with tasks including research and administration in their London office for nine months.

The interns are paid and also receive support with accommodation costs.

Of the nine interns who took part in the 2012/13 scheme, six now have permanent jobs, four with MPs, and one has returned to full-time education.

Ten people are taking part in this year’s scheme.

Hazel was joined by the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, at a special reception to welcome the new recruits.

Sarah Linney, 21, who is doing her paid internship with Hazel said: “It is not an over-statement to say that the Speaker’s Parliamentary Placement Scheme has changed my life.

“I didn’t believe that someone like me could have an opportunity like this, coming from a working class background, not being an Oxbridge graduate and not having the right connections.

“You look at politics today and you think to yourself ‘I don’t stand a chance’, but this scheme is an excellent way of giving people who wouldn’t normally get the chance to work in politics, the opportunity to do so.

“And far from making me more nervous about politics, it has given me the confidence to pursue a career politics and address the issues I care most about.

“I hope to work in charity helping families affected by addictions and then maybe one day become an MP.”

Hazel said: “It was a pleasure to meet everyone taking part in this year’s scheme and it was clear that we once more have a really bright intake with a huge amount of talent.

“It would have been criminal if they had been denied the chance to build on this potential just because they could not afford to work for free.

“I believe passionately that nobody should be denied access to valuable opportunities like this on the basis of wealth.

“But it is not just politicians who need to do more to ensure equality of opportunity for everyone – all employers have a responsibility to do so and that is why I am campaigning to make unpaid internships a thing of the past.”

Under the law, anyone who works set hours and has set responsibilities is entitled to be paid at least the National Minimum Wage.

PM challenged by Hazel on unpaid internships (June 19, 2013)

HAZEL has challenged the Prime Minister to ensure that students from Salford who graduate from university this summer are not exploited as they take their first steps on the career ladder.

She called on David Cameron to ensure that employers were not allowed to breach the National Minimum Wage by offering unpaid internships to young people.

Hazel threw down the gauntlet to Mr Cameron in the House of Commons as she stepped up her efforts to ensure interns are paid.

The previous day she led a parliamentary adjournment debate on the issue before launching Let’s Get Our House In Order, a campaign to persuade all MPs to pay their interns after several recently advertised unpaid roles.

Hazel, who says unpaid internships discriminate against talented young people who cannot afford to work for free in London, told Mr Cameron:

“In a few weeks’ time, thousands of young people across the country, including many from my constituency in Salford and Eccles, will be graduating from university and looking forward to getting their first step on the career ladder.

“Unfortunately for many of them, the only option will be a long-term unpaid internship that requires them to work for free.

“Will the Prime Minister therefore make sure that the National Minimum Wage Regulations 2011 are rigorously enforced by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs to put an end to this exploitation of our young people?”

The Prime Minister replied that Ms Blears was “doing some important work in this area”, stressing that while short-term work experience could be valuable, unpaid interns should not be used instead of employees to avoid paying the National Minimum Wage.

Hazel’s Westminster Hall adjournment debate was attended by 20 MPs from across the political spectrum and she received widespread support in her opposition to unpaid internships.

She said that while more firms and MPs were now paying their interns, and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs was prioritising enforcement action, much more needed to be done.

Anyone who works set hours and has set responsibilities is entitled to be paid the National Minimum Wage.

Afterwards, Hazel launched Let’s Get Our House In Order at an event organised alongside the Intern Aware campaign group.

She signed a pledge promising to pay her interns and was joined by MPs from all the main parties including former cabinet minister David Blunkett, Lancaster and Fleetwood MP Eric Ollerenshaw, Cambridge MP Julian Huppert and Green Party leader Caroline Lucas.

Hazel said: “A short work experience placement can be a valuable introduction to the world of work but when you have unpaid internships lasting for several months and even longer being advertised that is just exploitation.

“Young people from poorer backgrounds often feel there is no point in them applying for these internships because they know they will not be able to afford to work for free in London.

“We need to send out a clear message that unpaid internships have no place in Britain in the 21st century.

“They perpetuate the existence of a society in which it is where people come from, not where they want to go, that dictates their future.

“That is a scandal in a country that supposedly prides itself on fairness and equality.”

Ben Lyons from Intern Aware, the campaign for fair internships, said: “Unpaid internships exclude the vast majority of young people who can’t afford to work for free.

“It is wrong that too many employers recruit based on the wealth of an intern’s parents rather than their aptitude and willingness to work hard.

“Where interns are doing real work, they also have a legal right to pay and we have helped interns secured thousands of pounds of unpaid wages.

“The Government must respond to the calls of MPs – and the tens of thousands of young people who can’t afford to intern without pay – and crack down on unfair and illegal unpaid internships.”

Hazel was instrumental in setting up the Speakers’ Parliamentary Placement Scheme in 2011.

The scheme offers nine-month paid internships in the London offices of participating MPs from all the main parties, plus help with living costs.

It is aimed at people who are passionate about politics but cannot afford to work for free.

Name and shame firms which use unpaid interns says Hazel (June 10, 2013)

Hazel is calling on treasury chiefs to name and shame companies found to be employing unpaid interns.

Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs has revealed that during 2012/13 it ordered nine firms to pay £200,000 to people who had worked for them as unpaid interns.

But it has refused to identify any of the companies involved.

Under the law, anyone with set hours and responsibilities should be paid at least the National Minimum Wage.

Hazel called for Treasury officials to do more to enforce the law when she met with Treasury officials and employment minister Jo Swinson about the problem in January.

However, she believes those found to be flouting National Minimum Wage rules should be ‘named and shamed’.

Hazel, who was instrumental in setting up the cross-party Speakers’ Parliamentary Placement Scheme – offering paid internships with MPs – said:
“I’m pleased to see HMRC is taking firm action against firms found to be flouting National Minimum Wage requirements and prioritising cases involving unpaid interns.

“But why should they be protected from public scrutiny?

“A policy of naming and shaming would enable these companies to be held directly to account by their customers.

“A one-off demand to pay former interns might be small change to some large firms, but if customers are empowered to vote with their wallets that could really make them sit up and take notice.”

Hazel says unpaid internships, many of which are offered in London where living costs are high, deny people who cannot afford to work for free valuable opportunities.

She has secured a Westminster Hall adjournment debate on the issue for Tuesday, June 18, which will be followed by the launch of her Let’s Get Our House In Order campaign in Parliament.

At the launch event, jointly organised with the Interns Aware campaign group, politicians from all parties will sign pledges promising to pay their interns.

Hazel says this will give MPs more credibility when they call on companies to ensure all their internships are paid.

Third paid internship scheme launched (March 11, 2013)

HAZEL helped to launch the third round of a scheme offering paid internships in MPs’ Westminster offices was launched at the London Stock Exchange.

She set up the cross-party Speakers’ Parliamentary Placement Scheme in 2011 after becoming concerned that many people were denied such opportunities because they could not afford to work for free in London.

Hazel is also campaigning to end long-term unpaid internships in the private sector.

The launch event marked the beginning of the application process for the 2013/14 scheme, which is supported by London Stock Exchange Group Foundation.

Intern Suraj Odedra opened trading for the day.

Hazel said: “I was delighted to help launch the third year of the scheme, which has been hugely successful in helping people from all sorts of different backgrounds get valuable experience in Parliament.

“These opportunities should be available to everyone with an interest in politics, not just those who can afford to work for free in an expensive city like London.

“Unfortunately, unpaid internships remain all too common, and we need to take the lead as MPs in saying that they are wrong.”

Under the nine-month scheme, which is administered by the Social Mobility Foundation, interns are paid and receive help towards accommodation costs.

Every intern is paired with an MP and helps with the running of their London office and research from Monday-Thursday.

On Fridays they work in a variety of roles across the House of Commons to gain a better understanding of how Parliament works and how legislation is made.

Around two-thirds of the inaugural 2011 intake have now secured permanent jobs in Parliament or elsewhere.

To apply for the scheme visit http://www.socialmobility.org.uk/speakers-parliamentary-placements-scheme/

The deadline is 9am on Monday, April 22.

Paid interns welcomed to Parliament by Hazel (January 4, 2013)

A NEW intake of paid interns was welcomed to the House of Commons by Hazel.

She launched the cross party Speakers’ Parliamentary Placement Scheme in 2011 in conjunction with the Social Mobility Foundation.

Hazel initiated the scheme after becoming concerned that only people from affluent backgrounds could afford to do unpaid internships with MPs in London.

Under the scheme, interns are paired with an MP and help with tasks including research and administration in their London office for nine months.

The interns are paid and also receive support with accommodation costs.

Around two-thirds of last year’s inaugural scheme intake has now secured permanent jobs in Parliament or elsewhere.

Hazel was joined by the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, at a special reception to welcome the 2012/13 recruits.

Nine young people are taking part in this year’s scheme.

They include David Nicholson, 23, from Fife, who is working in Hazel’s office.

David, who suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome, said: “It’s a great privilege to be on the Speakers’ Parliamentary Placement Scheme.

“The scheme allows people like myself who come from working class backgrounds to live and work in London – I certainly couldn’t afford to do so if the internship was unpaid.

“It’s a great opportunity to work for an MP and gain an insight into how Parliament works.”

Hazel said: “I was thrilled to meet this year’s recruits and hope they will learn vital skills that will assist them in forging successful careers.

“Nobody should ever be denied the chance to gain the valuable experience offered by a long-term internship simply because they cannot afford to work for free.

“An increasing number of politicians started their career after getting a job in an MP’s office on the back of an unpaid internship during which they received support from their families.

“It cannot be right that we should have a political elite drawn mainly from middle and upper class families who can afford to support their children in this way.”

David Johnston, Chief Executive of the Social Mobility Foundation, said: “We are delighted to have seen the second cohort settle in so well to life in Parliament and look forward to hearing about the exciting experiences they have during their nine months.”

Last month, Hazel introduced a Ten Minute Rule Bill in the House of Commons seeking a blanket ban on advertising of long-term unpaid internships.

She secured cross-party support for the bill and it will get a Second Reading on February 1.

Hazel added: “I hope that through the Speakers’ Parliamentary Placement Scheme we as MPs can set an example that the business world will want to follow and help to create a culture in which long-term unpaid internships are seen as unacceptable.

“But we need to ban the advertising of these internships for those companies unwilling to embrace this change.”

Under minimum wage legislation, people who work are entitled to the national minimum wage, which is currently £6.19 an hour for those aged 21 and over.

Commons bid to end unpaid internships (December 5, 2012)

HAZEL today launched a bid to ban employers from advertising long-term unpaid internships.

She said young people were being exploited by some employers as she introduced a Ten Minute Rule Bill on the issue in the House of Commons.

It has secured cross party support and is now scheduled for a second reading on February 1 next year as Hazel fights to secure the change in the law needed to introduce the ban.

Under minimum wage legislation, people who work are entitled to the national minimum wage, which is currently £6.19 an hour for those aged 21 and over.

“In the current economic climate, it is all too easy for unscrupulous employers to exploit the hopes and dreams of young people by offering long term, unpaid internships,” said Hazel, who stressed she was not targeting short work experience placements.

“These unpaid internships are a modern day scandal which are rife in the very areas of work where so many young people are desperate to get a foothold.

“Part of the reason that unpaid internships are so unfair is that they are disproportionately located in London – one of the most expensive cities in the world.

“This immediately freezes out large sections of the country, and I know that very few people from Salford could afford to relocate to London to work in a full-time job without getting paid.”

Hazel added that the worst offenders were the media, fashion and finance industries – and until recently politicians.

She has led moves to rid politics of unpaid internships by introducing the Speakers’ Parliamentary Placement Scheme in partnership with the Social Mobility Foundation.

The scheme, launched last year with cross-party support, gives people from disadvantaged backgrounds the opportunity to work in Parliament as paid interns.

As well as receiving a decent wage, they are given support with housing and provided with a structured scheme that allows them to develop their skills.

But Hazel admitted that more needed to be done.

“By outlawing the advertising of unpaid internships the Government can send a clear message that unpaid internships shut down opportunities for more people than they open up; that the practice is counterproductive to social mobility; and that the principle of asking people to live and work for free, is wrong,” she said.

Hazel’s motion was sponsored by the Lib Dem backbenchers Julian Huppert and Mike Crockart, and backed by Labour colleague David Miliband and the Conservative MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood, Eric Ollerenshaw.

A new YouGov survey of 2,794 people commissioned by the National Union of Students, found that 20% of 18-24-year-olds had done an unpaid internship, compared with 2-3% of those aged over 40.

Hazel hails paid internship scheme (June 13, 2011)

Hazel has welcomed the launch of the Speaker’s Parliamentary Placements scheme and said that it will play a vital role in making Parliament more accessible for people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The scheme, a cross-party initiative that will give 12 people from ordinary backgrounds the opportunity to undertake a paid internship in Parliament, was formally launched by Speaker Bercow last week, with applications now being accepted through the Social Mobility Foundation website.

Commenting on the launch of the scheme, Hazel said:

“I am absolutely delighted that our scheme has now been launched and is open for applicants. Over the past few months the role of internships has been under intense scrutiny, and those of us who work in politics know too well that the system of unpaid internships freezes people out of political life.

“I hope that our programme can act as a catalyst for change by demonstrating that unpaid internships are unjust and unfair. There’s a real difference between short, work experience placements which are voluntary, and long term internships which are exploitative.

“Our scheme will make Parliament more open and accessible. It will give people from working class backgrounds the opportunities that currently just aren’t open to them, and take an important step towards making our politics more representative of ordinary people.

The Speaker added:

“I am delighted to support the Speaker’s Parliamentary Placement Scheme. This excellent cross-party initiative will create a number of paid internship positions in Parliament for people from disadvantaged backgrounds. At a time when Parliament needs more than ever to reconnect with the British public, it is vital that the opportunity to gain experience of working here is open to as diverse a range of people as possible, not just to those who can afford it. I very much hope this scheme goes from strength to strength.”

Applicants can apply using the online form provided on the Social Mobility Foundation website – www.socialmobility.org.uk

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