Tony Blair's private office has been reported to tax authorities over its use of unpaid interns, after a graduate revealed he was rejected as he could not afford to work for free.
Information which purports to show the Office of Tony Blair recruiting unpaid interns for three months at a time has now been passed on to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) by the Graduate Fog website.
When questioned whether the HMRC would be investigating Blair's office, a spokesman said:
"We are unable to comment on individual cases.
"We ensure that employers comply with the national minimum wage rules across the board. Where we have reason to believe the rules are being abused we will investigate. We always act on allegations of NMW abuse."
The graduate, who wishes to remain anonymous, was offered the internship but when he explained he could only afford to work four out of the five day week, was told via an email: "Sorry…the role has now been filled by someone who was available for the full 5 days."
The former prime minister's office, which manages Blair's consultancy and diplomatic work, confirmed it uses unpaid interns for three months.
"The Office of Tony Blair is not a charity," a spokesperson told the Guardian. "Each internship lasts for around three months and is designed to give young people valuable experience in a high profile and fast moving work environment.
"Our interns are volunteers."
Under Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) guidelines, advertising for an unpaid intern is not illegal. Whether or not someone is entitled to be paid the NMW depends on whether or not they are a "worker".
The BIS defines a worker as:
"Someone who works under a contract of employment or any other kind of contract (express or implied) whereby they undertake to do work personally for someone else (and they are not genuinely self-employed).
"A contract does not have to be written and can be oral or implied. Key elements in establishing whether someone has a worker's contract include:
- Whether there is an obligation on the individual to perform the work and an obligation on the employer to provide the work, and
- Whether the individual is rewarded for the work by money or benefits.
So you can advertise unpaid internships but if the actual working arrangements are such that the person is a 'worker' than you will have to pay them at least the national minimum wage."
The BIS also clearly distinguishes the difference between a worker and a volunteer: "a volunteer does not have any form of contract of employment or contract to perform work or provide services."
The Office of Tony Blair has been contacted by the Huffington Post UK but has yet to respond.