Pay for placements?

This is an article by Richard Bailey.
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Work and play for interns (photo @Wickliffe)

There’s no doubt that work experience is valuable for students: in a practical discipline like public relations it can be a key step in getting a foot on the career ladder.

But should students be paid for their time on placement?

In the US, it seems it may be illegal for employers to exploit students as a source of free labour (The New York Times, 2 April 2010).

What about the UK? In its revised Work Placement Charter, the CIPR acknowledges that the rules governing unpaid placements (increasingly known as internships in the UK as well) can  be interpreted either way on this question:

“National Minimum Wage legislation requires employers to pay minimum wage or above for all work placements, unless they fall within the following exemptions:

  • Students who are studying on higher education courses at UK universities or colleges if placed with an employer as part of their course. This exemption may be applied for a maximum period of one year.
  • Students doing voluntary work for a registered charity and those doing work-shadowing.”
  • As the CIPR states: “PR remains a popular and therefore highly competitive career for graduates, but this does not mean that employers should take advantage of this to exploit interns.”

    “Unpaid internships should be the exception rather than the rule and best practice is to offer at least the minimum wage.”

    Perhaps the distinction should be made between graduate level placements and those suitable for sixth formers and first and second year students. A broader ban on unpaid work experience would make it almost impossible for inexperienced students to develop skills and confidence and to build their CVs before entering the highly competitive graduate jobs market.

    Photo from @Wickliffe’s photostream on Flickr used under Creative Commons


    1. I think students should be paid. Some internships require more work and effort than others. Although they are gaining the needed experience and most times they are without the qualification but they have bills to pay as well and books to purchase.

    2. I am a student at the University of Westminster and have been extremely lucky to be sponsored through University by a corporate company whilst studying Public Relations. In my experience of work placements i think students should be paid if it is a summer period placement (3 months) or a year long placement. However if we are just planning to work for a week or two, no pay should be necessary. But travel and food expenses should always apply, otherwise it feels as if an employer is undervaluing our abilities and that is plainly wrong and no student should accept that situation.

      Remember public relations is about the sell! If you are offering yourself for free, your not selling your abilities very well!!!

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