Unpaid internships are a hot topic just now. Usually when young people take them on, they are aware they will not receive any payment. However, one teenager’s working experience has sparked outrage - resulting in some fundraising - as the topic, again, has been thrust into the spotlight.
Jay El-Leboudy, 15, from Kent in Canterbury wanted to save money to buy his family Christmas presents and worked for ten weeks in his local Londis newsagent - only to be told he was actually doing an unpaid internship.
Speaking with the Canterbury Times, his mother, Zoe Buckwell, described how the shop’s owners had been family friends and had made an arrangement for Jay to work on trial for a week.
Ten weeks into his job, though, she said her son had been working twice a week from 5.30pm until 9pm - sometimes 9.30pm.
She added: “Jay was getting quite worried, as he was hoping to have his money in time to buy Christmas presents.”
The issue first came to light when Mrs Buckwell took to the Canterbury Residents’ Facebook page to explain the situation and ask for help from her neighbours.
She wrote: “He was waiting to get paid in all this time, because the shop owner said she needed permission from the council and his school before she could pay him.”
Now, though, after Mrs Buckwell started a GoFundMe page, big-hearted members of the public have stepped in to make sure Jay’s Christmas goes according to plan - and have helped to raise over £2,200 - and counting - so he can treat his family and friends.
Speaking of her son’s experience at the Londis store, Mrs Buckwell wrote on the fundraising page: “He was so excited when, after two weeks of working there, he received his first wage. Sadly, after ten more weeks, the company never gave him another penny.
“Excuse after excuse, they finally told him they had no intention of paying him, he was just a volunteer. He was so disheartened as he was really looking forward to saving up some money for Christmas.
“Help me to lift his spirits and remind him of the good people out there by donating a small amount to his Christmas fund.”
Defending their decision not to pay the teen, one of the shop’s owners told the Canterbury Times Mrs Buckwell was told that, because of her son’s age, the law says “he’s not allowed to work.”
The owner also added the criticism the business has been receiving on Facebook has been “unjustified.”
According to employment rights and pay for interns guidelines as set out by the Government, though, “work experience students of compulsory school age, ie under 16, aren’t entitled to the minimum wage.”
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