Internships Reevaluated Around the World and at Medill

Ben Lyons, co-director of Intern Aware, has worked with lawyers in Britain to help interns to come to private settlements with a number of high-profile companies, including the department store Harrods. Mr. Lyons said recent initiatives in Britain have included an investigation by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs into breaches of minimum wage laws, which has already claimed back almost £200,000, or $320,000, in unpaid wages for interns, and a new government policy, announced last month, of “naming and shaming” employers in breach of minimum wage laws.

Other European countries are also adopting more stringent regulatory practices. In France, the Loi Cherpion, passed last year, strengthens the legal rights of interns — stipulating, among other things, that interns working for more than two months must receive the minimum wage. In Austria, employers are being offered wage subsidies to keep interns on. Last year’s European Commission report suggested that a clear E.U.-wide definition of an intern, greater transparency in the internship recruitment process, and higher levels of compensation for interns would help protect young workers from exploitation.

The U.S. isn’t the only country examining labor issues and dealing with legal problems when it comes to unpaid interns. Interns across the world are fighting for their fair shake when it’s clear that an employer should be paying them for the work that they’re doing, according to the Times.

ProPublica’s internship investigation series is currently looking at Medill, Northwestern’s journalism program, which requires students to “work full time at news organizations” during a quarter known as “Journalism Residency.” The students are placed at internships around the country and are given a small stipend ranging from $600-$1,200 for relocation costs but generally work full-time at a news organization for college credit, and no pay. Medill is currently reexamining the practice.

The residency sounds like a good thing for the students: In a journalism program, there is no better experience you can get than working in an actual newsroom under an actual editor. Of course, it’s always nice to get paid, but Nicholas Jackson, currently the digital director at Pacific Standard says his experience with Medill’s residency program was positive:

Thanks, @ProPublica, for this obnoxious debate on the Medill listserv: I interned at @TexasMonthly. Best experience.

— Nicholas Jackson (@nbj914) October 1, 2013

Photo: vxla

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