Finally, a crack-down on the modern day’s thinly disguised ‘slave labour’

Categories: Employment & skills

HMRC plan to divert their attentions to cracking down the endemic practice in today’s fashion industry of so-called ‘internships’ which leave their recruits completely without remuneration, often for months on end.

Frequently, interns rarely receive a paltry contribution towards travel costs or lunch. It hardly needs to be pointed out that this is utterly unfair because only those children of families capable of sustaining them financially for the period of the internship are able to apply. Those who don’t have the spare cash for the astronomic Oyster costs in London, or indeed the spare change for a Pret lunch every day which oftentimes eats the greater proportion of a tenner, is barred from even thinking of a career in the fashion industry. And they really do mean that much. With the competition for jobs getting ever fiercer, the ability to rattle off so-called ‘experience’ in a superficial interview context (“So, tell me about a time when…”) makes such (frankly superficial) ‘experience placements’ ever more spuriously coveted. And the fashion industry has proven to know that only all too well…

And so, HRMC’s decision to investigate into this practice and enforceability of payment will hopefully exact a fairer process which will ensure the equality of opportunity in attaining such an internship for anyone that wants to apply. Furthermore, this might concomitantly ensure an ability to support oneself financially when on the job. And perhaps, this requirement to pay their interns (shock horror) might incentivise the fashion houses’ to give their interns valuable work rather than the dreaded instruction to, ‘sort of research this minor point of this rather large issue which we barely expect you to understand’. Which is (inevitably) somewhat useless to them and the beleaguered intern in question. Or worse still – ‘would you mind re-filing my entire cabinet alphabetically?’

It has been cited by the Guardian recently that government lawyers have told the Department of Business ministers that quote, “most interns are likely to be workers and therefore entitled to the [national minimum wage] and other worker rights”. Music to the ears of many an intern. HMRC will thus dedicate time to investigating the practices and accounts of small private companies and large multinationals to see where they rank in this all too prevalent practice. Nor will this investigation be a matter of asking interns blatant and crude questions such as, “Are you being paid?” Instead HMRC will have recourse to records and private enquiry. In any case, the interns themselves are probably the last to report their ‘employers’ anyway given their fervent desire to impress them.

And so it is decided, a creeping and stealthy attack on this abuse of power and influence in the fashion industry shall imminently commence. Let’s hope it gets fashionistas worrying about more than whether their nail colour sufficiently matches the colour of their skinny latte coffee cup pronto…