The HSE has apologised for advertising seven unpaid assistant psychologist roles this week.
The seven roles were advertised as “voluntary” for 20 hours a week in Dublin, even though there is a pay scale in place for the position within the HSE.
An assistant psychologist and spokesperson for CARE for Psychologists said people applying for these roles will have a degree, a master’s degree and work experience.
The spokesperson said people needed to work as
assistant psychologists to apply for a doctorate in clinical psychology.
“We cannot get onto the doctorate without assistant psychology experience, and we think this is really unethical and taking advantage of us because we have to do it,” they said.
“It’s crazy, crazy difficult to get onto these doctorate courses but they won’t even look at you if you don’t have assistant psychology experience.”
A spokesperson for the HSE said: “This advert has been brought to our attention and is being reviewed. While this review is under way, this advert is removed. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.”
The spokesperson added that they “continue to participate in the national pilot currently under way to establish the efficacy of the assistant psychologist grade as a paid grade, and have paid assistant psychologist roles at present as part of this.”
There are currently 117 paid assistant psychologist roles within the HSE, running under a new pilot scheme launched two years ago. The spokesperson for CARE for Psychologists said these roles were “very competitive”, and although this scheme was in place, “working unpaid voluntarily in an assistant psychologist role is common”.
With increasing pressure on the HSE to provide better mental health services, the spokesperson said this was a barrier to early career
Calling the unpaid roles “elitist”, the spokesperson said: “Who’s going to work those jobs? People who are wealthy, whose parents can afford to pay for them to do these positions and work for free, I couldn’t do that.
“There are paid assistant psychologist’s in the HSE and there is a pay grade – that’s why we feel these seven jobs are really unfair. Why are these seven not being paid when there’s a recognised pay scale?”
It takes the average person 10 years to get onto a doctorate in psychology, and the spokesperson says because the sector is so competitive, “if something like that comes up and you get it, you take it”, regardless if it is unpaid.
In March 2020, the HSE advertised five unpaid voluntary assistant psychologist roles with 20 hours per week, and previously in April 2019.
Richard Grogan, an employment law solicitor, said the job adverts were an “egregious breach of employment law”.
“Under the national minimum wage nobody should be working without being paid,” he said. Mr Grogan said that the posts were advertised under “voluntary” or “training” but said this was not the case in these positions.
“The national minimum wage act is very clear – you cannot be asked to do work and not be paid,” he said.