Burton gets tough on firms using interns as 'free labour'
SOCIAL Protection Minister Joan Burton is cracking down on companies who are trying to use interns as cheap labour.
There is a mandatory six-month "cooling-off" period after an intern completes their placement with a company before the same position can be filled by another intern.
But many companies are trying to break this rule by applying to hire new interns for the same job immediately after they let go their last intern.
There is a significant cost benefit for them because they do not have to pay any wages to the interns.
Records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that Ms Burton's department has repeatedly blocked these companies from using the JobBridge scheme again. During one week alone last November, 30 companies had their application to hire a new intern turned down for this reason.
This accounted for more than one-third of the 81 applications rejected that week. All of the company names were edited out in the documents released under the FOI Act.
The Department of Social Protection said it put this "cooling-off" period in place to prevent displacement – interns being used to replace full-time workers. It said it wanted to encourage companies to offer jobs to the intern instead of trying to replace them with a "second intern".
Around 11,000 people have worked as interns under the scheme since it was set up in July 2011. The second biggest reason for the rejection of internship applications by companies was a failure to demonstrate that it would be providing any training.