WHAT TO DO, WEAR AND SAY WHEN WORKING FOR BELOW MINIMUM WAGE AT LUXURY LIFESTYLE BIBLE’S LONDON HQ
* EXCLUSIVE TO GRADUATE FOG *
You may have read about the intern suing ultra-luxe magazine Monocle for unpaid wages – but you won’t have read the outrageous 18-page handbook the magazine has been giving its interns for years. It is the document that international media baron and Monocle editor Tyler BrÃ»lÃ© doesn’t want you to read – explaining tasks in excruciating detail, so that interns need have no contact at all with Monocle’s paid staff.
The handbook was passed to Graduate Fog by Amalia Illgner, the journalism graduate who worked at Monocle’s London HQ in Marylebone for two months in August and September 2017, splitting her time between the editorial department (Monocle magazine and newspaper) and radio department (Monocle24). She is now suing the magazine for unpaid wages with the help of Graduate Fog’s badass lawyer friend Jolyon Maugham QC.
Oh, and did we mention Amalia’s internship paid just £30 a day? Which works out as £3.53 an hour (well below the National Minimum Wage). On the days when the intern’s nine-hour ‘shift’ starts at 5.30am, they receive an extra 15 quid (but that still works out as less than the NMW).
“Welcome to Monocle!” the document begins. “We are excited for your two-month stay with us.” The intern will soon find out why — as the next 18 pages outline in forensic detail what is expected of them, including what to wear and exactly how to perform their cleaning, catering, reception and mail room duties to the standard required.
The document also details a number of tactics and practices that we suspect Monocle would prefer to keep private, such as their policy only to pay radio guests who ask for money, and to conduct a telephone “pre-interview” first to check the guests’ command of English and ensure that they are “sparky” and “engaging” to listen to. It also specifies that interns should never, EVER put through calls to Tyler BrÃ»lÃ©.
Tanya de Grunwald, Graduate Fog’s founder, says Monocle’s 18-page document is one of the most extreme she has seen – but it is part of a wider trend:
“The idea behind so-called ‘interns’ handbooks’ is to minimise the amount of time that paid members of staff need to spend explaining tasks and supervising unpaid or low-paid interns. Even creating these documents is unlikely to cost the employer anything. I’d put money on the fact that Monocle’s 18-page tome was created by an intern, as part of their placement at the magazine some years ago.”
The handbook gives a fascinating insight into life at one of the world’s most prestigious glossy magazines and parts of it could be straight from The Devil Wears Prada. Here are some of the handbook’s most shocking excerpts – tell us below what you think…
Interns are instructed that their outfit must always be ‘put-together’:
There is no pretence that this internship is anything other than real work. And when it comes to greeting guests, it seems there is a correct way to present hot drinks — and it’s on a mini wooden designer chopping board:
Interns are told exactly how to answer the phone:
…and how to ‘pre-interview’ them:
…and NEVER to offer payment to guests unless they ask:
Lengthy instructions are given to interns unlucky enough to be picked for the ‘morning shift’ (5.30am!) radio show:
The good news is that interns with any energy or creativity left will be invited to share their ideas (although Amalia says it’s Monocle’s policy not to pay for these, obviously…):
Didn’t get picked for the 5.30am radio shift? Interns who end up in Monocle’s post room are unlikely to be having a much happier time, wading through all these instructions:
THE INTERN WHO DARED TO SAY NO: AMALIA’S STORY
Amalia Illgner says it was about two weeks before she began to question whether Monocle — part of a global media empire worth $47m (£33m) — was taking advantage of her. The final straw came when a story she found, researched, pitched and wrote ended up on the front page of the Monocle newspaper. Amalia knew that interns were never paid for their writing at Monocle, but seeing her work in print made her realise that wasn’t fair.
Amalia also began to feel increasingly queasy knowing that although she could (just about) afford to work for rock-bottom wages in order to add such a prestigious title to her CV, other budding journalists would simply not be able to survive financially if they tried to do the same.
The opulence of the Monocle offices (in plush Marylebone) also began to grate on her nerves. “How can it be right that the interns were toiling for less than the minimum wage in a workplace filled with designer furniture, expensively maintained indoor plants, and multiple Nespresso machines?” Amalia asks. “Monocle’s bathrooms even have heated toilet seats.”
And she was shocked to discover that Monocle interns could even be asked to double as international delivery mules. One day, a fellow intern was flown to Milan to hand-deliver some books and magazines to Tyler BrÃ»lÃ©, who needed them during Milan Fashion Week. Apparently, doing this was cheaper than an actual FedEx — thanks to the meagre wages the interns were on.
Aspects of the internships were also physically demanding — particularly the early shift for the radio show Monocle 24. Many of Amalia’s fellow interns based outside London struggled to get to the Marylebone office in time for the 5.30am start. And post room duties were often physically gruelling, as interns lugged heavy post bags up and down stairs. There was no supervision in the post room as full instructions were detailed in the handbook.
Although Amalia knew the internship would involve real work and pay less than the minimum wage, she has told Graduate Fog she felt increasingly uncomfortable about the power balance of the arrangement as the internship progressed, and realised after it ended that what happened wasn’t right.
Summing up her experience at Monocle, Amalia told Graduate Fog:
“For two months, I compiled research notes for Monocle’s radio producers, transcribed interviews for Monocle’s reporters, sorted Monocle mail, covered for the Monocle front desk, booked taxis for Monocle radio staff, and invited on-air guests in to Monocle. I also wrote a number of articles, including a 1,500 word piece that appeared on the front page of Monocle’s summer newspaper. All while being paid less than half the minimum wage.
“Despite having invested £10,000 and a year of hard work in my post-graduate journalism training at Goldsmiths, I have never felt less valued than I did at Monocle. I know that suing them means it’s unlikely I will get any paid work from them. But it is the principle. If internships are to be fair and open to everyone, then proper pay is vital.
“I also believe most people now agree that interns should be properly paid for their work. I’ve heard from campaigners like Graduate Fog and Intern Aware that cases where interns are prepared to complain publicly are very rare — especially with a high profile employer like Monocle — as few former interns feel able to come forward and take legal action against their employers. I feel strongly enough to fight about this, so that’s what I’m doing. If I win, it will be a victory for interns everywhere.”
Graduate Fog wishes Amalia the best of luck with her case – and we’ll be sure to keep you updated with developments.
* WHAT’S YOUR BEST BIT OF THE MONOCLE INTERNS’ HANDBOOK?
And have you ever seen anything like this before? Do you think Amalia is brave – or silly – to sue Monocle? Share your thoughts below…