“Intern Wanted – Only Those With Ten Years’ Experience May Apply.”
The age of people working in intern jobs is rising, but with this trend has come new challenges. According to the Data Service, of 457,200 internships in the UK during 2010-11, 182,100 were secured by people aged over 25. Five years ago that number would have been just 300. Much of this rise can be attributed to the widening of the age eligibility criteria for government-funded apprenticeships. Nevertheless, it’s clear that older job seekers are taking more intern jobs, despite experiencing age discrimination when applying for ‘real’ jobs.
The role of intern is changing
Traditionally, an internship or apprenticeship role was targeting the jobseeker with little or no job experience looking to gain that experience in a temporary role, typically for little or no remuneration. However, since the change in age eligibility, there has been a trend in hirers advertising intern jobs that require multiple years of work experience, sometimes in a number of specialist disciplines.
The suggestion is that these companies are trying to engage experienced, and skilled, mature workers at low cost and, in the process, are discriminating against younger jobseekers. If this is the case, then potentially, the firm could potentially be breaking the law under the terms of the Equality Act 2010.
A legal grey area
Under the 2010 Equality Act, when recruiting, it is illegal to discriminate due to age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation. The problem is, what constitutes age discrimination when it comes to recruiting for an intern job that requires five or more years’ experience.
While some employment experts believe that companies widen the length of experience required in order not to screen out more experienced candidates, others believe that these adverts act as ‘indirect age discrimination’ in order to acquire a more experienced person for a lower wage.
There’s an additional issue if an intern is brought in to replace a previous employee. Since, legally, an intern is more of a volunteer than an employee, an employment lawyer could easily argue in this instance that the individual is actually a worker and not an intern.
Hire the right jobseeker based on ability
There can be other issues too for recruiters that hire jobseekers that are over-qualified. Candidates with too much work experience might be bored quickly in the role and seek to leave earlier, or move onto a role with a better salary. And as every recruiter knows, hiring can be a costly process.
The advice from Zoek is, if recruiters want to get the right person, and avoid a potential legal action based on age discrimination, then the focus should be on hiring the right person for the job and not simply the one with the most experience.