Unpaid internships at the National Trust

The National Trust is an institution that celebrates what this country has to offer, which is why we are particularly concerned to see so many unpaid internships advertised on their website. We have written to the Director General of the National Trust to explain why unpaid internships are damaging to young people and society, with the aim of changing their policy so that talented young people are not cut out because they can’t afford to work for free.

What do you think?

Dear Dame Helen Ghosh, Director General National Trust,

I am writing to you from Intern Aware, the UK campaign for fairer internships with the view to arrange a meeting to discuss internships at the National Trust.

Internships can be excellent experiences for young people but when they are unpaid they exclude those who cannot afford to work for free. Experience is essential to a career in the charity sector, but many young people are missing out. Although charities are exempt from National Minimum Wage legislation when it comes to volunteers, many internships in the charity sector do not abide by the specifications that state volunteers should be free to choose their working hours and tasks and do not report to a boss and receive training like workers.

We are concerned by the extent of internships at the National Trust: both in number, duration and the tasks that interns are expected to undertake, tasks that we would view as real work not volunteering. On a recent search through your website we found a role advertised for a ‘Countryside Ranger’ in Polesden Lacey that specified ‘30 hours per week, with possible weekend and Bank Holiday working’ for a duration of 6 months. The role seems to involve significant responsibility, with the advert stating that the intern would be “required to help with practical countryside management tasks, supervising volunteers and making sure that all standards of Health and Safety are complete.” This appears to be a real role that would otherwise be completed by a paid member of staff.

In a recent search we found 19 advertised ‘voluntary internships’ on your website with the average internship lasting between six and nine months.

By asking interns to work for months at a time for no wage the National Trust is cutting out talented young people who simply cannot afford to work for free. As a national institution that celebrates what this country has to offer we believe the National Trust is doing a disservice to itself and its 4 million members by limiting the scope of its employees to those who can afford to work for long periods of time for no wage.

We would love to meet with you to discuss this issue further.

Your sincerely,
Intern Aware

We will keep you updated with our progress. In the mean time, tweet your thoughts: @internaware @nationaltrust