Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Slave labour required

A guest post for Da Steeps Speaks by Michael Ezra on a Labour MP and his search for an unpaid intern

Graham Jones, the Labour MP for Hyndburn & Haslingden, has advertised for a “hard-working” intern. The duties include:

·      Drafting policy letters
·      Conducting research
·      Handling telephone queries
·      Routine office tasks

Graham Jones: Labour MP for Hyndburn & Haslingden

Conceptually there is nothing wrong with this.  The tasks are as would be expected of a junior member of staff. But there is one major problem with this advertised job, or, internship, as it is referred to: it is unpaid. The successful candidate will be reimbursed some expenses but no wages.

In a totally free market one might ask what is wrong with this: terms are offered and someone is free to accept them or reject them. If someone does not want to work unpaid then they need not apply.

An 1829 poster advertising slaves for sale

There are a number of problems with this and an important one is that it impinges in a harmful fashion upon social mobility. The only people who can take unpaid work are those that that can afford to work for nothing:  those with other sources of finance to support the luxury of working for nothing. Because many jobs require experienced employees, young people from wealthier families who would find it easier to work unpaid than those from poorer families gain an advantage in the job market because they can afford to gain the experience.

There is another substantial problem: by law there exists a National Minimum Wage (NMW). According to the government, “refusal or wilful neglect to pay the NMW” is a criminal offence and “employers who deliberately fail to pay the NMW may face a potentially unlimited fine.” The National Minimum Wage cannot be evaded by an employer by simply calling someone an intern. It seems to me that the intern that Graham Jones is after would be classified as a worker and the role would be subject to the National Minimum Wage legislation.

It makes a mockery of our legal system if our lawmakers including Members of Parliament do not uphold the laws that they create. It is the role of HM Revenue & Customs to enforce the National Minimum Wage. I suggest they look into the employment practices of Members of Parliament forthwith.

View the blog of Graham Jones, MP for Haslingden & Hyndburn at:

View the advertisement to intern for Graham Jones MP at:

Details on HM Revenue & Customs role in enforcing the National Minimum Wage can be viewed at:

Michael Ezra lives in London and also blogs at: He can be followed on Twitter at:


Graham Jones MP said...

P Hancock said...

Graham: Are you for real mate?