Today Intern Aware, the campaign for fair internships, reported HMV UK LTD to the Advertising Standards Authority in response to their advert for an intern to work for three months with no pay at all.
The advert specified the intern would be expected to "support the budget management process", "update internal communications" and "work with external media and design agencies". All are examples of real work.
Unpaid internships like this exclude those who can't afford to work for free. The London School of Economics report that a month living in London, where the vast majority of internships are based, costs a minimum of £1,000 for rent, food transport and other essentials. That's money that most young people don't have. This means that bright, hardworking and passionate jobseekers who can't afford to work without pay are having the door slammed in their face by HMV and other employers.
In May the Guardian reported that HMV would make a £10,000,000 profit this year. Their Chief Executive Simon Fox is reportedly paid £517,000. This mega company can certainly afford to pay their interns. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) are in charge of making sure that all adverts posted in the UK are "legal, decent, honest and truthful". We believe that HMV's advert for an intern to work for below the National Minimum Wage could be argued to be none of those things.
It's not legal not to pay people who are doing real work at least the minimum wage. While we don't know whether HMV would really ask someone to do real work, with set duties and responsibilities, for no pay, this advert certainly makes it sound like they would.
It's not decent to exploit and exclude young job seekers, desperate for experience so they can get on get on the career ladder. With graduate unemployment at an all time high, there will be many who would love to work for HMV but who simply can't afford to move to London and pay high rents with no money coming in.
It's not honest and truthful to pretend to that by calling a placement an "intern" no salary needs to be paid. The advert makes clear that they are looking for someone with office skills, to do an office job. It specifies that applicants need "strong organisational skills" and for the intern to be "familiar with basic Office software". Why would they need these skills if they weren't a worker who was entitled to be paid?
You can read Intern Aware's letter to Simon Fox on our blog at www.internaware.org/blog. We'll keep you updated with what he, and the ASA send back.
Follow Gus Baker on Twitter: www.twitter.com/internaware