Hey, Christian Dior – what’s a ‘reception internship’?

Christian Dior internshipLUXURY BRAND BLAMES ‘BUDGETARY CONSTRAINTS’ FOR LOW-PAID ROLE AT KNIGHTSBRIDGE HQ

* GRADUATE FOG EXCLUSIVE *

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One of the world’s most exclusive and expensive luxury fashion brands has advertised a six-month ‘reception internship’ at its head office in central London. Yet Christian Dior Couture has told us that the low wage offered for the front desk role in their Knightsbridge headquarters is down to “budgetary constraints”.

The tactic of adding ‘internship’ or ‘intern’ to a regular role title is being used by an increasing number of cheapskate employers trying to justify a paying a low wage (or no wage at all). But those brands don’t usually charge £100,000 per dress, as Christian Dior Couture does. Here is the advert, which appeared on FashionJobs.com:

CHRISTIAN DIOR COUTURE cropped

You’ll see that no salary is stated in the advert, but when a Graduate Fog reader enquired about pay, Christian Dior Couture sent her this:

Many thanks for your email and interest in the Receptionist internship. This is a paid internship, we are paying minimum wage and we are looking for someone to work in the Christian Dior Head office located in Knightsbridge London for a period of 6 months. The position will start in August and its essential that we find someone who can commit to the whole duration of the internship.
Kind regards

Given the widespread use of unpaid internships still happening in the fashion industry, it is at least something that they’re offering the minimum wage for this role (We just re-read that sentence and almost cried). But what makes it an internship exactly?

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You may also have noticed that the advert states that “English must be applicants first language” (yes, they missed the apostrophe). We’re pretty sure that’s illegal. You can say applicants must have a high standard of English, but not that it must be their mother tongue. So we wrote to them:

To: Christian Dior Couture
From: Graduate Fog
Subject: Press enquiry about your ‘reception internship’
Date: 8 August 2014

Hi

I run a careers website called Graduate Fog. One of my readers has drawn my attention to a recent advert for a six-month ‘Reception Internship’ at Christian Dior Couture’s head office in Knightsbridge.

I have three questions I would be grateful if you could answer:

1) The role described appears to be that of a regular receptionist. What exactly makes this an ‘internship’?

2) I am concerned about the line in your ad that says “English must be applicants [sic] first language”. Are you aware that UK employment law says that employers cannot specify that an employee speaks any language as their first language?

and

3) Given that Christian Dior Couture is a hugely prestigious luxury global brand, many of my readers may be surprised to learn that the receptionist in your Knightsbridge head office is only paid the minimum wage, especially as it appears to involve quite a high level of responsibility, and experience is required. What is your response to this?

I look forward to hearing from you.

Many thanks,

Tanya de Grunwald
Founder, Graduate Fog

Ten days later, we’d heard nothing back. So we wrote again, this time Cc’ing the head of press at Christian Dior Couture. A few hours later, this arrived:

To: Graduate Fog
From: Christian Dior Couture
Date: 27 August 2014

Dear Tanya,

Thank you for your email of today.

I am pleased to confirm that we take our duties and responsibilities as an employer seriously and ensure that we comply with the law and best practice, including in relation to pay.

As is evident from the Job Description, the Reception Internship role is a relatively junior position. The complete absence of qualifications required, limited previous experience sought and the junior nature of the role within our business are reflected in the terms and conditions offered, including in relation to pay. The person who performs the role has the benefit of receiving informal training from the Office Manager.

We are a luxury brand but are subject to the same kinds of budgetary constraints that apply to any other commercial organisation. The constraints do have an impact on decisions made in relation to the terms and conditions offered to existing and prospective employees, including rates of pay and whether a role is temporary or permanent.

Being in possession of strong English language skills is a key requirement for the Reception role but that is all. In order to clarify the point we amended the wording of the job advert. As you know, the wording does not appear in the current “live” iteration of the advert. It was removed some time ago and before you contacted us. I am confident that we will do better in future.

I am looking forward to reading your blog tomorrow.

Yours Sincerely

We are pleased to hear that Christian Dior Couture corrected the text about applicants needing to have a high standard of English. However, we are still unclear what makes this a “reception internship” rather than simply a “receptionist” position – or why one of the world’s most prestigious and exclusive fashion brands isn’t able to stump up a better wage for a front-of-house role in their main Knightsbridge office. Any ideas?

 

*WHAT DO YOU MAKE OF THIS CHRISTIAN DIOR INTERNSHIP?
Should Christian Dior Couture offer a better wage for this role? And do you believe it is an internship, as opposed to a regular job? If it is a real job, why do you think they have called it an internship?

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