Devastating one, this. Unpaid internships are a contentious issue. In some sectors, it’s difficult finding work without having done one. But companies can get a lot of their work done by unpaid interns, which raises a few ethical issues. At least these internships usually involve fairly prestigious companies, and certainly not corner shops.
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Tell that to this teenager though, who spent 10 weeks before and after school working in a shop to save up for Christmas only to be told he won’t be getting paid.
Jay El-Leboudy, 15, had been working mornings and evenings in his local Londis for over two months in a bid to save up for gifts for his family. However, when he came to collect his overdue wages he was told by the boss that he wouldn’t be getting them — as he was on unpaid work experience.
His furious mum, Zoe Buckwell, said the store’s owners — who were family friends — had arranged an internship with the view of taking him on part time. She says he had been working two days a week at the shop in Canterbury, Kent, since. She told The Canterbury Times:
Jay worked nearly every day during half term.
He always made the effort to be there on time and worked way past 9pm, which was the time we agreed.
Ten weeks on, when Jay was working twice a week 5.30pm until 9, he hadn’t received any pay.
He was hoping to have his money in time to buy Christmas presents.
One of the Londis owners said that he had never agreed a wage. He said:
I said to her [Jay’s mother] that he’s only 15. The law says he’s not allowed to work and because we sell alcohol, he’s not allowed in lots of areas, but he is allowed to follow people around.
A fundraising website has since been set up for the 15-year-old. Too young or not, I guess the market is just so saturated with job seekers that a job at a corner shop can be called an unpaid internship. Some companies have made some changes to their hiring procedures to get round this, like Heineken, who created an elaborate interview process to find their right intern.