European Parliament to start paying interns

New rules mean that the much-criticised practice of not paying interns in Parliament is set to end.
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By Martin Banks

02 Apr 2019

It follows what is seen as a landmark decision by the assembly’s Bureau - Parliament’s decision-making body - to effectively ban unpaid internships in MEP offices from this July.

The decision has been hailed as a victory for campaigners on interns’ rights.

The Youth Intergroup in Parliament has long been calling for “fair” internships and says that, according to a survey, one quarter of interns in MEP offices in Parliament is paid less than €600 while 8 percent are unpaid.


Following the Bureau move this week, in future trainees will be hired directly by Parliament, will have their health insurance covered and will be remunerated between €800 and €1,313 per month.

This, the intergroup says, will “drastically” improve the current conditions of interns in the institution.

Both graduates and students will have the possibility to undertake internships with MEPs for a period of 6 weeks to 5 months, with a maximum prolongation to 9 months.

In addition, MEPs can offer study visits for a maximum duration of six weeks and offer internships in their home country following national legislation.

“The European Parliament will finally start leading by example. We will continue working to improve the situation for all young people. Too many are caught in a spiral of internships and other non-standard forms of work” Brando Benifei MEP

The new rules will enter into force with the start of the new mandate in July.

Two years ago, the youth intergroup released the results of a survey it undertook with interns in MEP offices and political groups.

It highlighted what it called “a significant problem with low-quality internships” offered in Parliament. The group launched a campaign to change Parliaments’ internal rules.

Reacting to the Bureau decision, Czech EPP MEP Tomas Zdechovsky, co-chair of the intergroup, said, “We have been working hard to get the issue on the agenda of the Bureau and are happy to see that a decision has been taken before the end of the mandate. We hope that other European institutions will now follow swiftly.”

His comments were echoed by Italian Socialist deputy Brando Benifei, co-chair of the intergroup, who told this website, “This decision is in line with our demands that were supported by over 140 MEPs.”

“The European Parliament will finally start leading by example. We will continue working to improve the situation for all young people. Too many are caught in a spiral of internships and other non-standard forms of work.”

“More work needs to be done. Companies and national governments should step up their game to ensure quality internships. At European level, the European Commission should evaluate the impact of the 'Quality Framework on Traineeships' and take further steps to have it implemented,” Benifei added.

According to the intergroup, almost 60 percent of traineeships in Europe are unpaid, while four in ten trainees do not have a contract and three in ten agreements “do not specify any learning content.”

For many of the 4.5 million trainees, their internship is often unofficially mandatory in order to find a job, contains little educational value and offers none of the security standards of a real job, says the group.

It called this “a shocking situation.”

In 2017 the intergroup launched its “Manifesto for Fair Internships in the European Parliament” calling for a fairer working environment for the young.

Last October, EU Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly asked the European External Action Service (EEAS) to start paying the estimated 800 trainees it has in delegations all over the world.

The EEAS subsequently introduced a new policy which O’Reilly said she hoped would result in “greater access for young people of all backgrounds.”

She said, “I also hope it will have the practical benefit of allowing the best candidates to apply for the diplomatic service, which makes good use of the trainees in its delegations.”

The Irish official says trainees should be involved in “meaningful work” and “should not be considered as cheap or free labour.”

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