Demand for action on intern pay in PR industry

The PR industry's treatment of interns has been thrown back into the spotlight with the revelation that only a quarter of comms interns receive the national minimum wage.

No salary: twenty-three per cent of PR interns worked for free (Getty Images)
No salary: twenty-three per cent of PR interns worked for free (Getty Images)

A survey of more than 150 young PR professionals has revealed that internships are poorly paid, lack diversity and do not even necessarily lead to a role in the end.

The research, undertaken by the PRCA in conjunction with Intern Aware, comes despite the PRCA launching a campaign with PRWeek to end unpaid internships, which was backed by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg last October.

The results, summarised below, show that just 28 per cent were paid at or above the minimum wage, with almost as many (23 per cent) receiving no payment at all.

The survey also revealed that the PR industry was still not encouraging diversity, with three-quarters of interns being white, British, female and living within commutable distance of London.

This lack of diversity is at least partly due to three-quarters of interns saying they would not be able to afford an internship without financial or parental assistance. Thirty-two per cent of those who had not taken an internship said the number one reason was because they could not afford one.

Seventy-seven per cent of respondents stated that their internship did not lead to full-time employment with the same organisation. In fact, 39 per cent of young PR people have had two or three internships.

The PRCA define an internship as a period of temporary experience-related work that lasts for between one and six months.

PRCA chief executive Francis Ingham said: ‘We need to avoid the easy option and accept that interns deserve to be paid for their services.’

Ben Lyons, who is co-director at Intern Aware, a campaign focusing on promoting fair access to the internship system, said the survey provided proof that PR has ‘an unpaid internships problem’.

‘Interning is becoming essential for graduates looking to get a job in PR and where these positions are unpaid, graduates who can’t afford to work for free are priced out,’ added Lyons.

Despite this, most PR professionals recognised the value of internships as a means for entering the industry. Fifty-two per cent of respondents rated internships as five out of five for value.

The research comes as HM Revenue & Customs steps up efforts to crack down on unpaid internships by sending out enforcement officers to fashion companies to make sure all workers, including interns, are paid the minimum wage.

Survey results

  • 23 per cent of respondents revealed they were not paid at all.
  • 39 per cent were unpaid but received some expenses.
  • Ten per cent had been paid expenses plus a small stipend, which was less than the national minimum wage.
  • 15 per cent were paid the national minimum wage.
  • 13 per cent received more than the national minimum wage

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