Google’s interpretation of “internship” is the “position of a student or trainee who works in an organization, sometimes without pay, in order to gain work experience or satisfy requirements for a qualification.” The part that is missing in this definition is that the internship is only for a limited period of time. But this is not the only problem with that definition. The other problem is “sometimes without pay”.
Many arts organisations in Dublin regularly look for interns and some say that they couldn’t operate without them. Internships are usually restricted to 6 months and are very very often unpaid.
BUT, this is not ok!
This week the RTE News website reported that the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) was forced to withdraw a job advertisement for a full-time six month long unpaid internship in the area of sports science that required the candidate to have a PhD or a Masters degree. The IRFU claimed that the job ad was publicised “in error” and without approval, seemingly when it was pointed out to them that unpaid internships are essentially illegal.
And this is the shocker that arts organisations in Ireland are clearly unaware of: The Workplace Relations Commission has stated that ALL employees with a contract of employment, even if they are called “intern” are entitled to salary of a minimum of EUR 9.55 per hour. That is EUR 382 for a 40 hour week and is a minimum of EUR 1528 per month. The National Minimum Wage act does NOT contain an exemption for internships.
So what does that mean for the art gallery in Dublin that says “Please note that internships at XXXXXXXXX are unpaid.”? It is illegal! And what about these current (!) job ads:
All dodgy!! And the names of the companies and organisations that break the law? Keelings, Decathlon, Dualway, Connect The Dots, YouBloom, Christ Church Cathedral. This list was the result of a quick Google search and a more detailed search would probably bring a MUCH longer list of companies and organisations that want to employ but not pay.
It is highly likely that plenty more unpaid internships are among this list of vacancies on all websites, especially because many companies don’t say if the internship is paid or unpaid. Sneaky!
The rules seem clear, but do the rules make sense? Yes and no! And it is a similar problem as with Au Pairs in Ireland where the Workplace Relations Commission has said that Au Pairs have to be paid at least the minimum wage. There are circumstances where an Intern (or an Au Pair) can learn a HUGE amount and will get therefore an adequate compensation through the learning that they couldn’t get otherwise. In that case there should be an option maybe to pay a lower amount than the minimum salary. But I know also cases where internship is or has been totally abused to get a free worker in the same way as the IRFU was nearly doing it.
Our government should spend time on fixing the Au Pair and the Internship rules. The way they are now is not helpful to anybody!