By Imogen Blake and Nicola Bartlett
A three month unpaid work experience placement is advertised on Islington Council’s website despite its pledge to pay all employees and apprentices the living wage.
Interns would work up to 35 hours a week and receive a maximum of £5 a day for expenses, depending on how many hours they clock up.
The internship is part of the council’s ‘Fair Islington work experience placement scheme’ which aims to offer unemployed borough residents “an insight into working life.”
As accredited living wage employers, the council choose to pay all employees a minimum of the London living wage, currently set at £8.30 an hour.
Under the National Minimum Wage Act (1998), councils are exempt from paying interns and apprentices for work but Islington Council pays its 16 to 19-year-old apprentices the living wage.
A spokesperson from the council’s recruitment team said the experience will not lead directly to a job and interns will have to apply for paid work after completing their internship.
Hours are flexible so Islington residents can still claim Jobseeker’s Allowance if they work less than 16 hours a week. If interns work more hours, their benefits will be affected.
HR resourcing manager at Islington Council, Savvas Tsattala, responded: “The placement is unpaid even if interns work 35 hours a week but we provide training and an insight into working life. We’re providing opportunities for the unemployed residents of Islington.”
Last week at the Labour Party Conference, Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury Rachel Reeves highlighted Islington’s flagship role and said Labour councils following the policy gave her “immense pride”.
In June, Islington Council advertised two unpaid placements requiring interns to work up to 35 hours a week for three months in either office administration and customer services or procurement, the process of obtaining goods and services.
A representative of Living Wage Foundation, launched by Citizens UK in 2011 to accredit living wage employers, said: “We would recommend everyone is paid the living wage but apprenticeships and work experience fall under different guidelines and don’t have to be paid.”
An Islington councillor wrote a blog post yesterday on the Local Government Association website speaking out against unfair wages for workers. Andy Hull, Highbury West ward councillor and co-chair of the Islington Fairness Commission, which recommended the council became a living wage employer, said in his post: “No-one should do a hard day’s work for less than they can live on.”
Charlotte Goodhart, 22, a MA student in Museum Studies at UCL, interned part-time unpaid with no expenses at the Jewish Museum in Camden between October 2011 and January 2012.
She said: “Unpaid internships are outrageous but necessary. I wouldn’t have been able to get onto my MA without museum experience but I had to get three jobs while I was interning and my parents helped me out with half my rent.”