Guest Blog, Pete Macleod, Living Wage Interns
I recently started a website, Living Wage Interns, which promotes internships that pay the real Living Wage. I was one of the unlucky students who left university in 2008 just before the financial crisis and I had countless internships, many of which were unpaid, before I could secure a graduate level job.
Ten years after I graduated, I had blithely assumed that with unemployment falling and the economy in better shape that employers would be more willing to invest in young people and offer paid internships. However, about a month ago I caught a debate on the BBC Daily Politics programme on whether interns should be paid or not. I was astonished that such a question could still be asked. Nowadays interns often fulfil the role of an employee, and are required to show skill, dedication and hard work - they have every right to be paid. It seems incredible that young people are told they should study to get a better job, and then told once they have done this, that they should work for free.
Inspired by the debate, I decided to set up a website that showcases internships paying the real Living Wage. I've always been a big supporter of this initiative since it seems to be common-sense that workers are paid enough to live on. I wanted to make the website unambiguous; if companies don't pay the real Living Wage, they don't get featured. I see so many intern adverts with vague commitments to pay “expenses”. Does rent in London count as “expenses”? Other employers often neglect to mention pay, or simply state they do not pay interns at all. I want to change this.
The website shows internships from different sectors such as politics, tech, media and charity, with an easy to use filter to help young people find work opportunities that pay the real Living Wage. I also send out a weekly newsletter so people can keep up to date on the latest positions. Companies can place an internship listing for £49.
As well as improving employment prospects for young people because it’s the right thing to do, I'd also like to persuade companies that paying interns a Living Wage makes good business sense too. Breaking down barriers to opportunities for young people, who might otherwise be excluded due to their background, allows companies to create a more diverse and inclusive workforce. If you want top talent, you have to pay all your staff, including interns, a real Living Wage.