Ok, so the Pay Your Interns piece I ran yesterday obviously struck a chord with many of you – there are some very pertinent and frankly, heartbreaking comments on the piece if you’d care to read them. However, I flagged up one publication – The Diary Directory (a beauty industry bible that lists everyone who’s anyone in beauty) in my observation that if such industry vehicles refused to take unpaid internships job adverts, then more companies would struggle to find the sought after gratis graduates. I received back a measured and thoughtful response which I am republishing here – it’s not often those at the top are willing to respond so openly, so I’m happy that Diary did. It’s also interesting however, to see that nobody in the beauty world has come back and commented that they think unpaid internships are wonderful.

Diary’s Comment:

‘It’s a tricky one! Personally, I completely agree with the ranting, and rant about it myself. We have had girls come for interview for (paid) positions at Diary & Diary Directory who have been interning at magazines for, in some cases, up to two years unpaid! It was my understanding that the National Minimum Wage was a legal requirement unless under certain specific circumstances – eg a required temporary work placement (ie a couple of weeks) as part of a relevant course of study.
As to whether it is the responsibility of publications not to advertise internships, we are in a competitive market where customer service is paramount, and if Diary won’t post our paying subscribers’ intern vacancies – someone else will. (I have had a look at Diary Directory’s Job Lots page and currently we have 8 paid vacancies, and 7 internships.)
We often speak to people, not only journalists, but stylists, make-up artists, photographers, illustrators etc, who are suffering because they are finding it increasingly difficult to get paid a fair wage for their work – prospective employers can instead commission a keen, recent graduate, who is only to happy to work for free… for now. Until the bills and other costly realities of life kick in. Perhaps then, when they have the temerity to ask for a wage, they will be replaced by a more recent graduate / someone less financially encumbered!
My own opinion, is that people should not work / be expected to work more than a couple of weeks unpaid, that they should always receive expenses, and, perhaps most importantly, that the job should offer them real and useful experience. Diary used an intern recently (she was American and did two weeks work experience as part of her ‘English Studies’ course which required a summer stay in the UK). Whilst she was here, she was taught to mail merge, how to do some basic html, a bit about databases, and massively improved her phone skills (don’t underestimate them!) A friend of hers on the same course interned at a PR agency (not to be named!) and spent a week dusting, tidying – and varnishing a door.
It is not publications’ responsibility to enforce the NMW law, but that of the companies trying to get free labour. But you have made me think – perhaps Diary will start requesting a guarantee from advertisers that their internships are short-term, with expenses paid, and where real experience is being offered. We won’t be able to police it – but perhaps it’s a start?’

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