The Internship Charter
Internships offer organisations a way to access talent, and a flexible way to take on loyal and skilled employees. Even though organisations benefit from internships, their prime purpose is to provide interns with meaningful work experience that enhances their employability and skills.
Ideally an intern should be paid a salary reflecting the contribution they make to the organisation, and at least receive the minimum wage (or London living wage where applicable). However, we feel that the quality of the experience for the intern is the most important factor, as the short-term economic costs of an internship can be off-set by the long-term advantages to the intern’s career, but this is only true if the internship is of sufficient quality.
The CIPD recommends that organisations offering internships should adhere to a voluntary code of practice – the Internship Charter – the six principles of which are set out below to ensure this is what, in practice, internships provide:
- Recruitment – Interns should be recruited in broadly the same way as regular employees of an organisation, with proper consideration given to how their skills and qualifications fit with the tasks they will be expected to fulfil. Recruitment should be conducted in an open and rigorous way to enable fair and equal access to available internships. The job advertisement should give a clear indication of how long the internship will last, and at interview, the intern should be told honestly whether there is a real chance of obtaining a full-time contract.
- Induction – Interns should receive a proper induction to the organisation they enter to allow them to fully integrate. Whether joining a large organisation, or a small or medium enterprise, an Intern just entering the job market may find the workplace intimidating. It is important to introduce an intern to the staff and the values of the organisation to help them integrate into the team, and allow them to hit the ground running.
- Supervision – Organisations should ensure there is a dedicated person(s) who has allowed time in their work schedule to supervise the intern and conduct regular performance reviews. This person should provide ongoing feedback to the intern, be their advocate and mentor during the period of internship, and conduct a formal performance review to evaluate the success of their time with the organisation.
- Treatment – During their time with an organisation interns should be treated with exactly the same degree of professionalism and duty of care as regular employees. They should not be seen as ‘visitors’ to the organisation, or automatically assigned routine tasks that do not make use of their skills. Organisations should make some allowance for interns to, on occasion, attend job interviews or complete study requirements.
- Payment and Duration - As a bare minimum, the organisation should cover any necessary work-related expenses incurred by the intern. This includes travel to and from work, and any travel costs incurred whilst attending external meetings/events. When making decisions about how much to pay interns, it is important to adhere to the relevant legislation at all times.
- Certification/reference and feedback – On completion of their internship organisations should provide interns with a certificate/reference letter detailing the work they have undertaken, the skills and experience acquired, and the content of the formal performance review conducted at the end of the internship. Interns should also be offered the opportunity to give feedback on their experience in an ‘exit interview’, giving organisations the opportunity to reflect on its own performance in delivering internships.
The CIPD believes that the many organisations currently offering internships will already be meeting these principles. However, not all interns report good experiences. Given the expansion of internships being promoted by the Government as one response to rising graduate unemployment – an expansion the CIPD has endorsed – more organisations will be considering internships, yet many of them will be unfamiliar with good management practice in this area. The CIPD believes the establishment of The Internship Charter will not only contribute to the employability and work experience of the intern, but it can also help improve business performance by allowing businesses to get the most out of internships. We therefore believe publication of The Internship Charter to be timely and hope that the principles it contains attract the support of employers, Government, employers’ organisations and the trade unions.
Toward fairer, more accessible internships
Initially, the CIPD believes that organisations which advertise internships through the Graduate Talent Pool website should be able to apply for Charter status. If they sign up to the Charter, it is then up to the employer to follow the principles of the Charter through guidelines and the feedback they receive.
The CIPD, however, recognises that a voluntary code of practice will still fail to prevent some internship schemes from not meeting the standards outlined in the Charter. We see the establishment of The Internship Charter as only the beginning of a longer process of making internships fairer, more accessible and more productive, and leading to a properly regulated Kitemark scheme that aids interns in choosing the very best internships, whilst also providing businesses with a set of guidelines.
We welcome many of the principles and recommendations of the Final report of the Panel on Fair Access to the Professions regarding internships, and see the Charter as a means to an end in achieving greater social mobility and a more effective UK labour market.