Internships that pay off properly

Excellent to hear that Chris Jarvis was so determined to be paid by Sony for the work he did there during a three-month stint that he almost took the multi-billion dollar company to a tribunal.

The intern ended up doing plenty of work at Sony’s Cambridge base last year, and after they failed to pay his travel expenses he decided to ask them for minimum wage payment for his duration as an intern.

Sony at first refused, but settled to the tune of $4,600 rather than be taken to a tribunal.

Because it didn’t go to court it can’t be regarded as a precedent, but Jasmine Patel, the assistant solicitor who helped Jarvis on his case, hopes it will send out a strong message to companies that don’t pay interns for work they do.

Because Jarvis wasn’t simply shadowing staff, was working regular hours and doing work essential to a project, Patel argues that the law might see him as an employee and not an intern, and thus entitled to pay.

Clearly this blurring of the lines will be an issue for companies thinking of offering internships, but the fact is that without payment – or even reimbursement of travel expenses – internships and work experience become something only the rich can afford – making it harder to gain a good-looking CV if you don’t have the cash to carry you through three months of earning nothing.

While companies might argue they would struggle to afford to pay an intern even minimum wage, the facts are there: if they are working for you, they deserve to be paid, like any other employee.

Firms should stop seeing internships as a way to get cheap labour. By actually paying interns it means the whole system of work experience is open to everyone – not just those with friends who can put them up, or with a rich family.

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