Wimbledon | BBC accused of exploiting free labour

BBC accused of exploiting free labour

The BBC has come under fire after it shared a job advertisement seeking seven people to help TV and radio producers for free during the upcoming tennis tournament, Wimbledon – The Sun reports.

Following the job ad that was categorised as ‘volunteering’, the studio has been accused of exploitation after the news emerged that the workers wouldn’t be paid to help TV and radio producers.

Candidates would have to work 40 hours a week for a fortnight behind the scenes at the All-England Club and would only receive £15 a day to cover travel expenses and meals.

Stewart McDonald, a Scottish National Party (SNP) MP, has written to the studio’s Director General Lord Hall, questioning the advert after Hall claimed last year that it was the ‘BBC’s policy not to use unpaid trial periods or shadow shifts’, reports The Sun.

McDonald said in his letter: “I’m astonished to learn that the BBC are advertising positions for [unpaid workers] during Wimbledon and dressing them up as volunteering, when it’s clearly a job that should be paid.”

The advert, which was originally posted on the BBC’s careers site, stated that applicants would be responsible for "running errands, general office duties, assisting commentators including delivering refreshments, meeting programme guests and distributing press releases."

It also stated that ‘physical fitness is essential’ to be a successful candidate.

Tanya de Grunwald, Founder of website Graduate Fog that campaigns against unpaid internships, commented: “This is not work experience – this is work. Okay, these placements only last two weeks – but they fail our fair internships test on both grounds: exploitation and exclusion.

“It’s also shocking that the author of the advert has spelled out a need for ‘physical fitness’. I’ve never seen that before – and I’m stunned that any big employer would write it in a public job spec in 2019.”

The BBC has since amended the job posting, removing the controversial line about physical fitness and has changed the wording to reflect that the advert is in fact for work experience and not a job.

The studio wrote in a statement: “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.

“Work experience placements are limited to a maximum of ten days and never include activities that we would normally pay someone to do.”

Can you ask staff to work unpaid?

According to Gov.uk, school students under the working age of 16 aren’t entitled to the national minimum wage. However, an intern over the age of 18 is entitled to pay if they count as a worker.

The BBC’s job ad was also tweaked to say that the ‘successful candidates will be mentored by the Production Management Team and will shadow different members of the production team on location’. This is a crucial aspect of the job posting as Gov.uk writes "the employer doesn’t have to pay the minimum wage if an internship only involves shadowing an employee, i.e. no work is carried out by the intern and they are only observing".

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However, is it legal and justified to ask workers to perform tasks on an unpaid basis? Unfortunately, this comes down to the employer as Gov.uk states that ‘internships are sometimes called work placements or work experience. These terms have no legal status on their own. The rights they have depend on their employment status and whether they’re classed as a worker; a volunteer; an employee’.

There is some promise though, as Gov.uk also shares that if an intern does regular paid work for an employer, they may qualify as an employee and be eligible for employment rights.

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