* UPDATE, 13 MAY: STORY PICKED UP IN THE SUN! *
PLACEMENTS REMAIN UNPAID, BUT LIST OF DUTIES IS REMOVED FROM ADVERT
The BBC has changed the wording of an advert for seven unpaid work experience placements at Wimbledon this summer to “accurately reflect the placements on offer” following outcry that they appeared to be unpaid runner jobs. The roles remains unpaid, although the BBC says that food and travel expenses are being offered.
Last week, Graduate Fog expressed alarm at an advert which appeared to be a two-week runner role at Wimbledon this summer but which was labelled “volunteering” and “work experience” with a salary stated as “£1-£1.” Duties included “running errands; assisting film crews/radio reporters; collecting and distributing press releases/orders of play/running orders etc; meeting programme guests and escorting around grounds; general office duties; prop sourcing; assisting commentators including delivering refreshments.”
bbc are advertising a work experience position at wimbledon that includes duties like “running errands… collecting and distributing press releases/running orders etc… general office duties; prop sourcing; delivering refreshments” so… a runner’s role then?
– Liz Tresidder (@liztresidder) April 27, 2019
Shame on the BBC offering “unpaid work experience” at Wimbledon – one of the apparently richest events in the calendar. Call them out https://t.co/XzK5dqjnbN
– thermalimageguy (@thermalimageguy) April 28, 2019
Concerns were also raised that a line in the advert insisting “Physical fitness is essential” could be read as an instruction that those with disabilities should not apply. This would not fit with the BBC’s stated claim to be committed to equality, diversity and inclusion. You can see the original advert here.
Since our story was published, nearly 2,000 people have signed a petition saying the BBC should pay a Living Wage and make sure it does not discriminate against candidates with disabilities, and top barrister Jolyon Maugham QC said the BBC may have broken UK employment law.
The MP Stewart McDonald also expressed dismay at the advert, revealing that he wrote to BBC boss Tony Hall to express concerns about unpaid trial shifts at the corporation, and Hall had replied in a letter dated October 2018 to insist that the BBC is fully committed to diversity and inclusion (and that BBC staff would be reminded that unpaid trial shifts are not permitted as a recruitment tool).
I’ve taken the BBC on before about offering unpaid work trials to people and the Director General assured me that they would stop using unpaid work. Seems I’ve got more work to do… @BBCNewsPR https://t.co/rD4ECt4JDT
– Stewart McDonald MP (@StewartMcDonald) April 29, 2019
On Monday morning, Graduate Fog asked the BBC for an explanation about the advert. On Thursday night, we finally heard back – from Catherine Hearn, HR Director, Resourcing and Talent. Unfortunately, the long-awaited response was somewhat disappointing:
FROM: HR DIRECTOR, RESOURCING AND TALENT
TO: GRADUATE FOG
Hi Tanya, apologies for the delay. As you can imagine have been working with the colleagues to ensure I fully understand the situation before I responded to you as we take this very seriously.
For reference you can find details on our website around work experience, generally placements are 2 weeks (10 working days) for 18+ and one week (5 working days) for 16-18 year olds. https://www.bbc.co.uk/careers/work-experience. We use guidance from Gov.co.UK to understand when work experience would class as ‘paid work’. (https://www.gov.uk/employment-rights-for-interns).
In this specific instance, having now done the work to understand the situation, we have amended the original advert to accurately reflect the placements on offer – they are work experience and not jobs – and are governed by strict rules, including paying expenses to cover food and travel costs.
With regards to ‘physically fit’, we have subsequently updated the description to better reflect the experience on offer.
If a call would be helpful to discuss further to do let me know and can have a call at your earliest convenience.
Underwhelmed? So were we. We checked the amended advert (pasted below), and saw several changes had been made. Most strikingly, the list of duties had vanished, and been replaced with this:
“The successful candidates will be mentored by the Production Management Team and you will shadow different members of the production team on location, you will have an opportunity to visit various parts of the whole media operation at Wimbledon and to find out something about the organisation of a major event.”
The line saying “Physical fitness is essential” had also disappeared.
However, serious questions remained – and we couldn’t shake the feeling we had been fobbed off.
We checked the BBC’s email again. Where is the thank you for bringing this to their attention? Where is the apology for the advert going live as it was – and the explanation for how it happened? Where is the reassurance this can’t and won’t happen again? There were still too many unanswered questions. Graduate Fog’s founder Tanya de Grunwald wrote back to the BBC:
TO: THE BBC
FROM: GRADUATE FOG
Thank you for your response.
However, I’m afraid that our readers are unlikely to find it wholly reassuring – as it raises as many questions as it answers.
You claim that the original advert did not accurately reflect the nature of the placements – yet you have not supplied any explanation for how that discrepancy occurred. You have also not offered reassurance that any processes have been changed, so that this will never happen again. The same applies for the line in the advert saying “Physical fitness is essential.” Who wrote that, and how did that end up in an advert for a role at the BBC? And how will you make sure that doesn’t happen again?
If you would like to provide any further explanation, we would be happy to publish that on Graduate Fog. If not, let’s leave it there for now.
In addition, we would very much like to speak to the successful candidates at the end of their placements, to make sure that the experience you describe in the amended advert really does reflect the nature of their time at Wimbledon (in other words, that they are/ were only shadowing). Given the loss of public confidence in the BBC resulting from the publication of this advert, we hope you will be happy to take this opportunity to reassure our readers on this matter.
PS. Thank you for your offer of a phone call, but we prefer to keep all correspondence to email for this kind of story, so that nobody can claim they were misquoted.
Speaking to Graduate Fog today, de Grunwald added:
“Having waited four days for a response from the BBC – in which time nearly 2,000 people signed a petition demanding action from them – we were expecting something better than this cagey reply, which raises as many questions as it answers.
“Their claim that the original advert misrepresented the true nature of the role requires a lot more explanation. How on Earth does that happen at an organisation as big and process-obsessed as the BBC? It is baffling, and this explanation is simply insufficient to be genuinely reassuring. If all those duties need doing, who will do them now that these seven people are only shadowing?
“Having hoped that the BBC would make these roles paid – at least a Living Wage – this is a long way from result we wanted.”
Here is the amended advert for the seven BBC Sport work experience placements at Wimbledon this summer:
* WHAT DO YOU MAKE OF THE BBC’S RESPONSE?
Do you believe their explanation – or do you think the placements will still involve real work?