Why you should always speak up

Feb 16, 2017

speak out


Why you should always speak up
Last year I got a little bit angry on twitter, because of a major publisher who offered a placement to an unpaid intern for a month.  The intern was given an allowance of £50 to cover lunch and travel, yet their travel expenses were over £120 a week.  To be able to afford to take this placement, the intern took a temporary job in the run up to Christmas and the New Year.  Yes, the intern worked for money over their holiday time, so they could afford to work for free for a publisher and subsidise their own travel.  I investigated this with the intern; the placement was organised by Human Resources. so it couldn’t be classed as rogue.

I arranged a meeting with the publisher to discuss the situation and ‘get their side’ before making any further judgement, or naming them publicly.  Surely their well-organised HR department couldn’t have known all the facts of this?  In the meeting it seems they were not aware of the high cost of the commute for this intern, and had the intern brought it to their attention they would have reimbursed the full cost.  What HR did promise was, when taking on interns in the future, they will ask the full cost of their travel, to ensure that they are reimbursing completely, and that the intern is not out of pocket from the experience.

This didn’t go as far as getting the intern paid for a short term placement (at the time they did pay for periods longer than a month), but it does ensure that those taking future placements with this publisher are treated fairly.  In this case, the money for the travel for the internship was refunded by The Book Trade Charity BTBS under their Access to the Book Trade Scheme. As far as we are aware, the publisher has since reviewed its policy on internships further to ensure they are all paid.

So, whatever the situation, if you are going to be out of pocket doing something, then SPEAK UP. Whether it is travel expenses that were offered on an internship or the cost of travel that was promised for an interview, you must let the publisher know.  If you don’t tell the publisher, they won’t know there is anything wrong.  Give them the opportunity to put it right.

NB.  bookcareers does not support unpaid internships.  The articles What you can do instead of working unpaid and What is the point of unpaid work experience should provide guidance as to what to do instead.