Cancer Research UK Becomes First Major British Charity To Abolish Unpaid Internships

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Cancer Research UK will become one of the first large British charities to abolish unpaid internships and from June 2018 the charity will ensure that all interns receive a stipend for their work. Cancer Research decided to implement the policy as part of a broader initiative to improve standards of equality, diversity and inclusion. Cancer Research UK says is it is completely committed to creating a culture of inclusion, one where everyone is able to achieve their full potential.

Charities taking advantage of the law

Presently the National Minimum Wage Law has provisions for charities to employ unpaid interns, however the non-profit sector has been criticised for taking advantage of that provision and employing people who simply wish to establish a career within the sector. Unpaid internships also discriminate against those who do not have sufficient funding to be able to work for free. The paid internship programme at Cancer Research UK is 12 weeks long and gives the opportunity to school leavers aged over 18 and university undergraduates and graduates or people who wish to switch careers the opportunity to gain work experience.

Now is the time for change

Successful applicants to Cancer Research UK’s internship programme seeking to start their career in the non-profit sector will develop a unique insight into what it takes to work for a charitable organisation whilst also playing a role in the fight against cancer. Sir Harpal Kumar, the charity’s Chief Executive says the issue is a complex one, however the organisation believes now is the right time to deal with it.  He adds that is it unfair that those who cannot afford it should be excluded from an internship programme at an organisation like Cancer Research UK.

Everyone should be paid a fair wage

At the moment the priority for the charity it to allocate as much money as possible towards the goal of beating cancer. Mr Kumar says there are however some costs that should not be avoided and this includes ensuring that all members of Cancer Research UK’s staff are paid a fair wage for their contribution. Mr Kumar goes on to say that his organisation is drawing a clear distinction between the thousands of people who choose to volunteer out of altruism and interns who wish to establish a career in the non-profit sector.

Other big UK charities likely to follow suit

Tanya de Grunwald a campaigner for fair internships says the decision by Cancer Research UK represents a major step for people seeking to start careers in the non-profit sector. She adds that the line between a true volunteer and a junior charity job has become blurred because neither is paid. It is not easy to demarcate the two, but there is a clear difference and it is very important that the difference be made clear. She concludes that now Cancer Research UK has taken this step, it will be much easier for other major charities in the UK to follow suit.