The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has threatened to expose media firms that break the law by using so-called work experience placements to cover full-time jobs.
A survey of journalism student placements among UK media firms found that over 50% of them took place after the students had gained their qualifications, with the majority receiving little, if any, payment.
The NUJ survey found that 20% of respondents who did post-qualification work experience undertook a placement for three months or more, with some working for more than six months without any pay.
The union said it is writing to companies warning them that it will ‘name and shame’ them if they refuse to take action against this infringement of the law on minimum wage.
NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear said in many cases companies are just looking for free labour. “This isn’t work experience, it’s exploitation.
“Demanding that people put in months of work for free doesn’t help companies find the best journalists, it helps them find the ones that can afford to put in the hours without pay.
“Even those able to work for free are often getting poor quality experience. Some are given purely administrative tasks and get no editorial work at all, while others are expected to churn out professional material without getting any training from experienced staff,” he said.
It also found that:
- Of those who had material published or broadcast, 78% received no payment for their work
- One-in-four claimed to have completed a placement at an organisation that wouldn’t be able to function normally without people on work experience
- More than half felt that they didn’t get enough support or guidance during their placements.