Top charities that exploit unpaid interns are to be reported to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) by Unite, the country’s largest union.
Unite, which has 60,000 members in the not for profit sector, has given evidence to the Low Pay Commission that it understands that more than a third of the UK’s top 50 charity employers (based on Charity Commission data from 2013) are signing up unpaid interns.
Unite will now be writing to HMRC, which has responsibility for enforcing the national minimum wage (NMW), currently £6.31 an hour for those over the age of 21, asking them to take action against “this exploitative and elitist practice which trades on the goodwill and compassionate nature of young people”.
Unite’s evidence was collated by trawling through the website advertisements of the top charities.
Unite’s move follows its report in May, with the Intern Aware organisation, Interns in the voluntary sector – time to end exploitation, which showed how some charities are using ambiguities in NMW legislation to avoid paying their interns.
The report said that charities should pay interns the NMW, otherwise working for voluntary organisations will become the preserve of a wealthy elite.
Unite national officer for the not for profit sector, Sally Kosky said: “Many of these charities are multimillion pound enterprises that can well afford to pay. Writing to the HMRC is next step in our campaign to stop these exploitative charities trading on the goodwill and compassionate nature of young people.
“The HMRC is charged with enforcing the NMW and we would urge them to take action where it is clear that young people doing an unpaid intern role are actually doing a proper job of work and should be paid accordingly.”
Unite said that it would not be ‘naming and shaming’ those charities alleged to be exploiting interns as that should be for the HMRC once it had carried out a thorough investigation, to decide whether it wanted to publicise those particular charities.
The report can be accessed at: http://tinyurl.com/odcocd2
For further information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 07768 693940
Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.