Correction: The headline of this article has been changed to clarify the internship is for up to six months.
A Lib Dem MEP is advertising an internship in Brussels for up to six months, which will include researching, drafting letters to government and preparing briefings - but offers no pay for the successful candidate.
Baroness Sarah Ludford wants a "volunteer trainee" to work alongside her in her "busy office" in the European Parliament, The Huffington Post UK can reveal. The position, which is categorised under the internships section of the job site, would "suit a recent graduate".
The successful candidate will "become familiar" with various roles including drafting of letters to constituents, government departments and European institutions, researching of topical issues and preparation of briefings and committee meetings and relevant conferences. There is no mention of flexible hours, and the candidate will be able to claim expenses, however Ludford's office said it was "policy" to keep the expenses amount offered confidential.
Gus Baker, co-founder of Intern Aware, told The Huffington Post UK: "It isn’t just the law that interns should be paid, it allows interns from all different backgrounds to access the opportunities they deserve.
"Sarah Ludford should listen to her colleague Jo Swinson, who makes this extremely clear.
"[Ludford is] contradicting her own party’s position and jeopardising the future young people all for the sake of saving a few pennies. Not a very sensible decision."
But a member of staff at the Department of Business told HuffPost UK it was unlikely Ludford's job advert was breaking the law as, due to being in Brussels, it would be classified as outside the BIS' jurisdiction.
HuffPost UK recently exposed fellow LibDem MP John Leech's advertisement for an unpaid intern - following the MP's recent award of Lib Dem MP of the Year for his work "with minority communities and promoting equality"
The government recently announced it would be investigating 200 employers who had advertised internship positions, to check they were paying the National Minimum Wage.
The move comes after a long campaign by Lib Dem MP Jo Swinson, who said: "Internships can provide an important first step and are often a valuable way of helping young people start work. They should be open to everyone in a fair and transparent way.
"To do this, we have to give young people the information and support they need so they are less likely to be exploited.
"Not paying the national minimum wage is illegal and if an employer breaks the law, government will take tough action."
Ludford told HuffPost UK she advertised her internships to give equal opportunities to everyone who applies.
“The vast majority of previous volunteers have gone onto paid employment, several of them with me, as a result of the experience they gained in my office, and they would not otherwise have had that chance.
“I’m very much in line with Jo Swinson’s thinking," she continued. "The voluntary intern positions in my office are not employment. They comply with the rules of the European Parliament and are in line with Westminster guidelines.
"They do not have set hours or responsibilities, and the successful applicants are free to come and go as they please. Nevertheless, the volunteers will have an excellent opportunity to learn how a political office functions, which will stand them in good stead when applying for jobs.
“I welcome applications from people from all backgrounds. A monthly stipend is provided to help volunteers with their subsistence expenses.”
Here is the job advert, posted on jobs.euractiv.com, in full:
Working for: Baroness Sarah Ludford MEP (Brussels)
Salary: Volunteer; no salary though there is monthly stipend for expenses
Details: Liberal Democrat MEP Baroness Sarah Ludford is seeking a volunteer trainee for her busy office in the European Parliament in Brussels. The position would suit a recent graduate and would be for a few months not exceeding 6 months.
The volunteer trainee will have the opportunity under the supervision of staff to become familiar with many aspects of working in an MEP office, including:
- drafting of letters to constituents, government departments and European institutions
- researching of topical issues and preparation of briefings
- committee meetings and relevant conferences
- maintenance of casework records
- general administrative tasks
The successful applicant will have excellent written and communications skills and be computer-literate. They will be organised and able to cooperate within a small team. Identification with Liberal Democrat aims and values is essential. A good working knowledge of political processes, the 2014 European elections and European Union affairs would be a distinct advantage.
Please note that this traineeship is a voluntary position but there is a monthly stipend for expenses.
Closes: Friday 6th December. Interviews envisaged in the week beginning 9th December to start in January. Appointment to the position may take place before the closing date.
Contact: Please send your CV and a covering letter with the subject line ‘Ludford traineeship application’ to: firstname.lastname@example.org