Tycoon and Dragon’s Den star James Caan has advertised for a three-month internship, paying expenses only.

The job description is the longest Graduate Fog has ever seen for an internship, coming in at close to 1,000 words.

The ad (pasted in full below) outlines a long list of responsibilities and qualities that the successful candidate must have.

This role is not just tea-making and post-sorting. And if it was within the private sector, it would be illegal.

However, the multimillionaire’s people have told me it is perfectly lawful – because it is within the James Caan Foundation, a registered charity.

And when I checked with the Pay and Work Rights Helpline, they confirmed that Caan – worth £70m – has done nothing illegal.

Because this internship is within a charity, this person can be classed as a ‘voluntary worker’ — who is not entitled to the National Minimum Wage.

I am flabbergasted.

I would like to be clear that I am not suggesting that Caan has done anything illegal.

He hasn’t.

Nor am I suggesting he has acted maliciously. No doubt he genuinely thinks this internship is an excellent opportunity for somebody.

What I am suggesting is that this ‘voluntary worker’ loophole in the law does not give adequate protection to graduates trying to break into the charity sector.

In effect, I feel this means they are denied the protection that their friends trying to break into private sector industries receive from our National Minimum Wage laws (in theory at least!)

Decide for yourself.

Do you think this role should be paid or unpaid?

James Caan Foundation Internship 2010 Reference:25522
Posted: 23 July 10

working for James Caan, private equity investor and panellist on BBC2’s Dragons’ Den

salary none

details James Caan, private equity investor and panellist on BBC2’s Dragons’ Den is looking to hire a candidate to intern in his direct office, working on a specific 3 month project, working within his Foundation.

The James Caan Foundation (JCF) was set up in 2006 to fundamentally assist with educating some 6 million children in Pakistan currently not enrolled in schools. Furthermore, the JCF continues to support charities in the UK working towards a number of different initiatives ranging from cancer care to providing equal opportunities for youth, but it also seeks to promote greater awareness for the developing world.

One of the key areas on which the successful candidate will be working, will be the British Pakistan Foundation. The BPF is a new initiative set up in the UK to provide a platform from which to engage with Pakistan related issues. The board of the foundation, of which James Caan is the chair, is comprised of exemplary knowledge and experience of the region, including members of British society with strong links to Pakistan. The foundation works towards addressing key areas within Pakistan such as Healthcare, Education, Power Generation, Food Supply, Inward Investment, and water supply on a large scale. It will also strive to improve the perception of Pakistan in Britain and the way in which Pakistanis view Britain. The underlining aim of the foundation is to bridge the gap in perceptions, general sentiment and relations between the two nations.

Objective of the Internship

  • Managing the role of the JCF in the BPF

As a new foundation the BPF will need a lot of support. You will play an essential role in the organisation and the coordination of the BPF, and be responsible for the smooth running of the Board and its agenda. This will include:

  • Coordinating the very high profile board

Your primary responsibility will be to support the project in its entirety. You will need to coordinate it and maintain delivery.

The Board of The BPF consists of a number of high profile individuals from various professions, all with a high level experience and knowledge, who will all have ideas and input with regards to direction and the projects. In order for the Board to operate successfully it will need a high level of organisation and support. This will involve:

  • Action monitoring
  • Minute taking
  • Organizing meetings
  • Setting the agenda

You will be responsible for ensuring the balance, coverage and workability of the agenda. It will be your responsibility to understand the individual members’ contributions and subsequently set the agenda.

  • Working with key players to ensure that the BPF achieves its goals

An exciting aspect of this role will be the chance to meet, correspond, and build relationships with a number of high profile individuals from diverse professional backgrounds. This important part of the internship will involve working closely with the Board; with members of the American (APF) and Pakistani counterparts; with key figures in the British Pakistani community; with government officials, in order to foster engagement. It will be your responsibility to develop these relationships and promote the BPF as a forum/platform for the coming together of various stakeholders in The BPF’s mission.

The BPF could be a serious and influential organization. With the ability to use the high profiles of the boards and members, it has the potential to influence UK policy towards Pakistan. One aspect of your role will be involved in these projects and issues.

You will also need to engage with various members of the community from all sectors and professions. This falls under the role of developing the BPF in its functional capacity as a platform for engagement. You will have the responsibility of stimulating and facilitating this engagement, and you will need to be proactive in your approach of

  • Raising awareness
  • Facilitating interaction between members Philanthropists, business men and woman, social entrepreneurs, civil society activists, and general members of the community.
  • The BPF Launch

The Launch event will require a high level of organisation and planning in terms of logistics and PR. You will be responsible for inviting honorary guests and. For this role it is essential that you will be:

  • Proactive
  • Highly organized
  • Able to use initiative
  • Creative
  • Target-driven

The long term goal of this internship is for you to contribute to the development and success of the BPF in its early stages of operation.

From your point of view, this is an opportunity where you will work in a formal working environment, with project plans, deadlines, deliverables, reporting to a manager, and having to deliver your best at every opportunity. Working for an HNWI gives you the opportunity to really make a difference as you will be working with James’ immediate projects team.

Job Location: Mayfair, Central London

closes 30 September 2010. Start date ASAP contact Please send CV and covering letter to…

Before I was made aware of the ‘voluntary worker’ loophole, I wrote to Caan’s people to express my concern about the legality of the position.

I wasn’t very nice.

His spokesperson (his daughter Hanah) promptly sent this reply:

“Dear Tanya,

Thank you for taking the time to let me know of your concerns regarding the current situation with internships and the National Minimum Wage.

I should point out that the internship on offer is to work for the James Caan Foundation, registered charity number: 1136671. Under s 44 National Minimum Wage Act 1998, workers employed by charities, voluntary organisations and associated fund-raising bodies are not entitled to the national minimum wage. This exemption is designed to allow people who genuinely wish to work without profit for good causes to do so.

Perhaps this wasn’t made clear in the internship brief posted on the website. I will make this much clearer now so that there is no confusion as to the nature of the internship.

Do let me know if there is anything else with which I can be of assistance.

Warmest wishes.”

Compared with the responses I’ve had from Tesco, Sainsbury’s, etc, this email was delightful.

And it turns out that she’s right.

Because the employer is a charity, this role can be classified ‘voluntary worker’.

It may be legal — but is it fair?

A document by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills makes it clear that calling someone a volunteer doesn’t make them a true volunteer in the eyes of the law – if their responsibilities are that of a ‘worker.’

Private sector employers can be prosecuted for failing to pay their ‘worker’ interns.

Can anybody explain to me why this should be different for interns working for charitable organisations?

Other, more senior people who work within charities get paid, so why not the intern?

From Hanah Caan’s email — and further research online — it seems that this loophole is there to protect the ability for people to do genuinely altruistic volunteering — for their local soup kitchen or church, for example.

Of course we don’t want employment laws so rigid that doing a good deed for your community is made impossible (because the soup kitchen / church is legally obliged to pay you for this).

But it’s my opinion that there is a big difference between a middle-aged housewife who chooses to volunteer one night a week in her local soup kitchen — and a young graduate who takes a full-time, unpaid job with a TV entrepreneur’s charitable foundation because s/he hopes it will lead to paid work in the future.

In my opinion, the first is volunteering.

The second is ‘volunteering’.

Although I would like to say again that James Caan has done nothing illegal (nor malicious) here, Graduate Fog has discovered that this is not the first time he has publicly displayed his difficulty with understanding the many (and sometimes subtle) points of the unpaid internships debate.

In June, Caan penned a piece for the Daily Telegraph entitled Graduates should work for free to get ahead, stating:

“Working for free has its drawbacks, but it will prove to be a great investment in the longrun.”

“…Last week I highlighted the importance of a carefully crafted CV and with work experience the same attention to detail applies.

“You’re not applying for a salaried position, but that shouldn’t stop you using your CV to highlight your achievements, transferrable skills and potential.

“Don’t expect opportunities to come to you on a plate: do some investigative work and contact local companies you’re interested in to see if you can work with them.

“Search for internships online, in the trade press and local listings.”

Like many people in the business world, Caan appears to be unaware that the internships debate has moved on significantly in the last few years. He also seems unaware that hundreds of thousands of young people are now being exploited by companies simply looking for ways to cut staff and training costs – and that (in most cases) this is illegal as well as unethical.

As Kayte Lawton, spokesperson for think tank IPPR said this weekend:

“Employers often mistakenly believe there is a ‘grey area’ around internships in the National Minimum Wage legislation that allows them to take on unpaid interns as long as both sides understand it is a voluntary position — this is simply not the case.

The law is, in fact, very clear and the problem is a failure of enforcement.”

As Caan is a high-profile UK businessman, I think it would be invaluable to persuade him that unpaid internships are not a fair, reasonable or sensible solution for anybody. I would love him to become a champion of this issue, using his profile to raise awareness throughout the business community.

I think Caan could use a cup of tea and a chat with Graduate Fog and my good friends at Intern Aware and Internocracy.

So that’s exactly what I offered in this email (sent this morning):

Dear Hanah,

Thank you for your email.

I have now checked my facts and found you are correct in stating that the internship offered at the James Caan Foundation is within the law. I would like to apologise if my earlier email was rude.

However, while I accept that this position is not illegal (because it is within a charity), I remain concerned that it is not fair. I do not believe that this is what the ‘voluntary worker’ exemption was designed to do. I fear that the person who takes this role with the James Caan Foundation is unlikely to be a true ‘volunteer’ — and is more likely to be a young graduate desperate for an opportunity to work alongside Mr Caan, in the hope that it could lead to permanent paid work with him in future — or at the very least add weight to his/her CV.

I am not suggesting that Mr Caan or his organisation have acted maliciously in running this ad — or the internship. No doubt he genuinely thinks that this placement offers an excellent opportunity for somebody. However, I believe Mr Caan maybe unaware of how the unpaid internships culture has escalated in recent years — and is now contributing to a situation where it is only the well-off, London-based graduates who can afford to gain the best experience, as many of these opportunities are unpaid. Poorer (better?) candidates who live outside London and can’t afford to work for free are excluded.

As you may be aware, last week all five candidates for the Labour leadership committed to support Intern Aware’s pledge for fair pay for all interns. This weekend, a report by Internocracy and the IPPR stated that interns are entitled to the minimum wage, prompting universities minister David Willetts to make his strongest statement yet on this subject, saying “The exploitation of interns is unacceptable and the employment legislation must not be breached.”

I would very much like to invite Mr Caan to join me and my friends at interns’ rights groups Intern Aware and Internocracy for a cup of tea. We would welcome the opportunity to bring Mr Caan up-to-date with this issue and would like to invite him to become a business champion for this cause. We could really use someone fighting our corner!

I have just posted this letter to my website, to keep my users up-to-date. We look forward to hearing from you.

With many thanks,


So there you have it.

Today has turned out to be the day that I asked James Caan to tea.

It’s a funny old world.

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