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Arcadia interns paid a year after working

Arcadia has retrospectively paid dozens of interns who worked at its head office up to a year after their placements ended.

The fashion group has sent cheques worth hundreds of pounds in total to interns who had worked in the PR department of the company’s London head office, The Guardian reported.

The retailer said the cheques had been sent out after an internal review of intern placements.

Former interns said they had been used to ship clothing to journalists from a “windowless” stockroom.

Former Miss Selfridge intern Emily Wong, who worked at the retailer for a month in April 2011, received a cheque for £851 after complaining about her lack of pay to HM Revenue and Customs.

HMRC is keen to rid the fashion industry of unpaid labour and bring in a minimum wage for those over 21. The body has been visiting designers and fashion houses to ensure all workers are paid what they are owed.

Arcadia owner Sir Philip Green said: “We’ve done everything we think we’re supposed to do. We’ve built an academy. We’ve got 700 kids working. We try to encourage other people.”

Readers' comments (9)

  • I have some sympathy for interns (having been one myself for quite a while) but I honestly think pay for expenses and travel only, as offered by most companies, is a fairly good deal, especially compared to when I was interning for 11 hours a day with neither.

    The case of Ms. Wong complaining to HMRC about her lack of pay for a month of interning is absolutely ridiculous. These kids are provided ample warning before they get into the business that you will almost definitely have to intern for a while before being considered for a paid role.

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  • I agree with the above, however I do feel this is exploited in this industry

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  • Interns should be grateful for the opportunities they get.
    It feels like they think the world owes them and do not understand if you want to get anywhere there are no short cuts to hard work.
    There aren't many industries where you get the opportunity to get a foot in the door with no experience. Often having interns is a hassle for those having to manage them.
    I bet they would complain if they could not get any experience to put on their CV. It's a shame they may close this avenue down....

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  • I have employed interns in the past paying expenses and not had much enthusiasm from them despite giving interesting and varied tasks in a good design studio atmosphere.

    I have more latterly employed students for 3-6 months and paid just over minimum wage irrespective of their age and found I got a far more engaged and interested calibre of student, more expressions of interest and a chance to select a strong personality who really wanted to learn, I also felt we could push them harder to deliver on tasks to a high standard as a paid member of the team and when they left they went on to make use of what they had learned, kept in touch and did well in the industry.

    Surely nobody in the fashion industry feels good about exploiting young students and expecting them to support themselves whilst they help to support your business.

    I welcome the move towards appropriate payment and think all self respecting businesses should adopt this. After all most large businesses have corporate social responsibility agenda's - surely if they can consider ethical trading and human rights in other countries they should apply it at home.

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  • In response to the above comment " they think the world owes them"
    Its the fashion industry that seems to be under the impression that employees owe them work for no pay! Its ridiculous to expect people to work for nothing.
    This does not happen in other working environments and makes us look backward.

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  • I'm 23, graduate from my International Fashion Marketing degree in July this year and have managed to secure myself a great, well paid e-commerce job. This is all off the back of spending a year on a (not so well paid, but paid all the same) placement and doing lots of other unpaid work over the years too. I'd have struggled to do a years placement without being paid, but would have done so if necessary; if you want to work in this industry so badly, you're prepared to do anything, often for free, to get there. In my opinion it's the best way to sieve the talent - the fashion industry is a fantastic industry to work in - working for free is your licence to be part of it - if you don't like it there are PLENTY - for those with drive, passion and enthusiasm, regardless of what's said on the news - of jobs out there in other industries.

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  • Jessica Good

    When I graduated internships didn't exist. I got a minimum wage job as a junior designer and just about scraped by.
    As I don't come from a wealthy family there is no way I'd have been able to become an intern had I graduated now.
    I would need to eat, you know, it's not about wanting something badly enough, it's about not starving to death.
    If you make someone work and you don't pay them you are basically telling them they are worthless.
    I've never heard of accountants and lawyers doing unpaid internships but in fashion you get it all the time. Would you ask your accountant to do a 'free trial or project to see if he was good enough?' Wonder what he would say? :D
    Lest we forget that unpaid internships are actually illegal in the UK, funny that this article doesn't mention this. Note to Philip Green, you're supposed to pay them as well you know. Don't forget that bit :)

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  • I found myself in the same situation just over a year ago.

    I carried out an unpaid work placement for 3 months at the Arcadia Group.

    I was still studying full-time (producing observation notes weekly and submitted a report a week after my work experience...). I also worked weekends in order to survive. Therefore, I was working and studying 7 days a week for 3 months. I even covered shifts and still got nothing from Arcadia Group.

    I don't think that I would work for them because of the company culture.

    Do you think that I am entitled to claim any compensation?

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  • I have worked for 10 years in the fashion industry in buying and design offices and haven't needed to work unpaid once. I think it is wrong and I would never employ someone and expect them to work for free.
    I am also aware of the fact that being able to work for free for long periods of time usually means that person has money coming from somewhere i.e Mum and Dad. That does not equal drive and passion.
    At least Emily Wong has some integrity, the guts to stand up for herself and some principles.
    I think we should remember that there are millions of unemployed in this country at the moment and the biggest financial crisis the world has ever seen so its a bit vulgar to say that there are "PLENTY" of jobs out there.

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