The British Institute of Human Rights has advertised for four interns to work for up to four days a week for at least three months, paid only £5 a day. This is while maintaining that the organisation is “committed to challenging inequality and social justice in everyday life in the UK.”

The positions on offer are: Programmes Intern, Policy intern, Communications and Website Intern and Director’s Intern. All require substantial skills and experience – yet pay only £5 travel and lunch expenses per day (as long as they bring their receipts). Applicants must commit to working two to four days a week, depending on the role, and interns must commit to working for “at least three months”.

We have also found evidence of other internships at the BIHR, including a Director’s Intern (which looks like a PA job to us), Legal Policy Research intern (who will need a “legal background to research human rights case law”) and a Communication and Website intern (which looks like a straightforward digital marketing position to us). See for yourself – we’ve pasted the adverts below. Their site also says there are only seven salaried employees at the organisation – which by our calculations means there are as many unpaid interns working there as there are paid members of staff.

Astonishingly, the irony of recruiting for unpaid, young staff members while maintaining you are a force for social good seems to be lost on the BIHR, whose website proclaims:

Vision, Mission and Beliefs

At a minimum, human rights are a safety net for all of us — at home, at school, at work, in the places in which we have friendships and networks and in society as a whole. They can help guard against excessive state power or in some cases against individuals exercising inappropriate control over our lives and failing to treat us respectfully, be mindful of our dignity, or give us a ‘fair deal’. But they are also a set of guiding principles which can help us go beyond the minimum standards of decency and create a fairer, more tolerant society in which everyone has an equal chance to flourish as human beings, and play a full part in making decisions about and contributing towards their community.

Our vision:
We want a society that has become stronger because all human beings are equally valued, can participate fully and are treated with fairness, dignity and respect.

Our mission:
To bring human rights to life by producing and shaping human rights tools, public policy and practices that empower people to improve their own lives and the lives of others.

Our beliefs:
– As human beings we are all born with human rights.
– The whole of society will be stronger if we are empowered to realise our own human rights and able to defend those of others.
– Human rights are a set of important principles that can be used in practical ways to create a fairer more decent society.
– The value of human rights for individuals and society will only be fully realised if they are embraced as a full set of interdependent rights, spanning civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights.

We strive to put our beliefs into practice through our operating principles.

Really? Because it looks to us like you’re trying to get something for nothing…

By law, charities are currently allowed to have as many unpaid interns as they wish – thanks to a loophole in the minimum wage law that was designed to protect the practice of genuine volunteering (so your local soup kitchen wouldn’t have to pay you for helping out for two hours’ a week, for example). But there is growing anger and frustration that too many charities are now brazenly taking advantage of this to secure unlimited free admin support. But Graduate Fog – and many of our readers – believe that these positions exploit those who take these internships (which are often full-time and last up to six months). Worse still, they exclude those young people who can’t afford to work for free from the chance to gain vital experience they now need to even be considered for paid jobs in the charity world.

Graduate Fog has already exposed several large, well-respected charities like Oxfam, the National Trust and Comic Relief for failing to pay their interns a decent wage for their work. We have also reported on multimillionaire businessmen like Tony Blair and James Caan who have advertised for interns to work at their charitable organisation for free – as well as organisations like the Centre for Social Justice (which offered an 11-month unpaid internship!). Yes, they are legally allowed to do this (for now – Labour MP Hazel Blears wants to change that). But exploiting this loophole is so clearly just plain wrong. Morally wrong. Wouldn’t you expect people who spend their time campaigning for human rights to realise that? We have invited the BIHR to explain below how they think these four internships are fair. Let’s see how they respond…

Want to know what happens next? Follow us on Twitter @GraduateFog or Friend us on Facebook!

Even if it’s legal for charitable organisations like the British Institute of Human Rights to use unpaid interns, are you surprised they don’t feel any guilt about it being morally wrong? Should the law be changed so that charities are no longer exempt from having to pay all their staff at least the minimum wage?

Here are the adverts:

BIHR Communications and website intern

BIHR Directors Assistant Intern

BIHR Legal Policy Intern

BIHR Programmes Intern

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