Labour Shadow Minister Tried To Recruit Unpaid Volunteers To Work In His Office "Long Term"

Exclusive: Frontbencher Tan Dhesi warned by students' union vice-president that “nobody should work for free”.
Labour MP Tan Dhesi in the Commons
Labour MP Tan Dhesi in the Commons
Jessica TaylorPA

Labour shadow minister Tan Dhesi has been warned to “pay people what they are worth” after trying to recruit unpaid volunteers to carry out “long term” work in his office.

A job advert on Working For An MP asked for “committed” people “passionate about helping others” and who “take satisfaction from getting stuff done” to volunteer for the Slough MP for no pay.

Tasks for the role included answering the phone, opening post, updating Dhesi’s website, writing to constituents, monitoring media coverage and other basic admin.

Most are jobs which would normally be carried out by a caseworker or parliamentary assistant, positions which would attract a salary of around £30,000.

The ad was removed minutes after HuffPost UK contacted the Labour Party.

A source close to Dhesi said the advert was placed due to an administration error and the Slough MP had been unaware. It is said Dhesi’s staff have been overwhelmed with casework due to the impact of the pandemic.

Zamzam Ibrahim, vice president of the European Students’ Union, warned Dhesi that “nobody should work for free”, adding: “Unpaid labour is far too often masked as volunteering and used to exploit young people. And far too often those unpaid volunteers are given same responsibility as salaried staff.

“Everybody from staff to interns to those on temporary contracts have a right to a living wage and a full array of employment benefits such as sick pay and holiday pay.”

One Labour staff member, who asked not to be named, told HuffPost UK: “It’s a shame really that a Labour MP would try to offer what is quite clearly a proper job role under the guise of ‘volunteering’, and even worse that it’s for long term.

“I’d like to think that MPs from our party would pay people what they are worth, even more so in this current economic climate.”

A note on the ad penned by W4MP, not Dhesi’s office, warned the work was voluntary, saying: “As such, there are no set hours and responsibilities and you should be free to come and go as you wish.

“If the post demands set hours and/or has a specific job description you may be deemed to be a ‘worker’ and be covered by national minimum wage/national living wage legislation.”

The ad said the MP was “looking for committed volunteers to assist his team over the coming months, and perhaps on a longer-term basis”.

It added: “If you’ve ever wanted to volunteer your time to help people in need, to support a fantastic local community and its elected MP, or experience what it’s like to be part of an MP’s busy team, then this volunteer role might be just for you.”

But the ad underlined “this is not an internship position or a job, and should not be viewed as such”, and said: “This position is very unlikely to lead to paid employment with Tan Dhesi MP and is not suitable for anyone seeking more than a voluntary role.”

HuffPost UK has approached Dhesi for comment but he has not responded.

The Labour Party, which backs a number of campaigns for fair pay, declined to comment and it was not clear if Dhesi had received any sanction.