An intern who worked at NOW magazine has been awarded £750 of back pay after signing up for our Justice for Interns campaign. IPC Media, the magazine’s publisher, admitted she had carried out “tasks for which she was entitled to be paid.” As magazines have been using unpaid interns on a massive scale for years, Graduate Fog predicts this case could open the floodgates for hundreds of claims.

The 27-year-old graduate of Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design – who asked to remain anonymous – worked for a month at the celebrity title last year. Although she attended a few fashion shoots, she spent most of her time working in a stockroom, “packing and unpacking” clothes with another intern. She was shown the ropes by one intern and didn’t meet management staff until a week into the placement. As the placement came to a close, she was asked to train the new intern who was replacing her. She told the Guardian:

“It wasn’t what I signed up to do… Generally you weren’t treated very well.”

IPC Media said that the reason for the settlement was that Anita had progressed to paid tasks. In a statement they said:

“IPC has a very clear policy covering work experience, internships and short-term freelance contracts. The individual undertook what had been understood by both parties to be unpaid work experience but during that time, it appears that she progressed to carrying out tasks for which she was entitled to be paid. Once this was brought to our attention, the payment was made through IPC’s payroll.”

IPC also disputed the term internship and said that it was usual for work experience staff to hand over to each other though they would always meet with staff at the start of their placement.

“This was a work experience placement; this individual was not an intern. Work experience staff already progressed into their placement may be asked to explain to newer work experience staff normal process etc. Passing on knowledge already gained and best practice is also a valuable part of the work experience.”

Anita, who was on Job Seekers Allowance during this period, said:

“People should think carefully before doing internships because you can be really misled. I’ve done a few now, so I know better, but I think everyone should claim their money back, it’s only fair. You put in the hours but you end up with nothing.”

Graduate Fog’s founder Tanya de Grunwald has worked in the magazine industry for 10 years and knows that the practice of using unpaid interns do to real, valuable work – often for months a time – has been common for years. The difference between “work experience” and an “internship” is irrelevant. The only distinction that matters is whether someone is doing real work or not. If they are, the minimum wage law says they must be paid – even if they say they are happy to work for free. This means that thousands of interns could be entitled to back pay. We predict this case will open the floodgates.

Or do you know someone who has? You may be owed thousand pounds for your work — even if your internship ended a while ago. Drop us a line here to tell us your story and we’ll explain how Justice for Interns works. There is no obligation to take your case any further and all emails received will be treated in strictest confidence.

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