PR Council member firms must pay interns at least minimum wage

The new policy goes into effect January 1.

Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

NEW YORK: The PR Council is adopting a new policy mandating that all its member firms pay U.S. interns at least minimum wage for their market.

The policy will be written into the PR Council’s Code of Ethics, which firm principals must sign each year when they renew their memberships. It is effective January 1, 2020, according to a statement.

Specifically, the new policy states that "paying interns is in the best interest of the intern and the firm, even if the student is receiving course credit. The only exception is for a very short-term (no more than two-to-three weeks) ‘externship’ consisting of only shadowing."

The PR Council has been working on the new policy over the last six weeks and its board voted to approve it last week, according to the group’s president Kim Sample.

A PR Council survey conducted of member firms found that respondents do pay for internships, though one admitted paying below minimum wage, Sample said.

However, many member firms were confused about the policies colleges attach to internships. Many, Sample said, were under the impression that some universities require that some internships be unpaid. In subsequent research, the PR Council found that no college intern programs carried that mandate.

"Across the board, colleges want interns to be paid and agencies want to pay interns," Sample said.

Sample added that adopting a clear policy against unpaid internships could go a long way to attracting more diverse talent to the PR industry.

"I think what’s really exciting about our members’ commitment to this policy is I suspect a lot of diverse populations believe we don’t pay," said Sample. "And so they don’t seek internships at our agencies. Now we can go out and say all of our membership agencies pay."

The PR Council, formed in 1998, is the professional association representing public relations and communications firms in the U.S. It has more than 105 agency members that together employ 12,000 people.

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