In a major legal test case, the NUJ in the UK and Ireland has established the right of interns to be paid for any work carried. The union took a media company, TPG Web Publishing Ltd, to court on behalf of its member Keri Hudson.
Keri worked a full day and was put in charge of a team of writers at the My Village website and asked to do training as well as scheduling articles and even hiring staff. Her employers insisted she was not eligible for any pay as she was an intern.
The NUJ supported her as part of its campaign to end the exploitation of new entrants into journalism. Although work experience placements can be useful for students of journalism, many unscrupulous employers have been extending short placements into unpaid or poorly-paid work, long after students qualify.
This practice has always been recognised as unlawful but the new ruling by the employment tribunal is sending a clear warning to employers to stop doing it. The tribunal established that interns are workers in law and are entitled to at least the national minimum wage and holiday pay.
"It is unacceptable that full time staff are being sacked while unpaid interns are being exploited. This is the first case of its kind – if employers continue to break the law it will not be the last" said NUJ General Secretary Jeremy Dear.
The NUJ has issued work experience guidance which can be found at http://www.nuj.org.uk/files/NUJWorkExperienceGuidelines.pdf