King’s College London takes on unpaid staff

This post was written by Jacob on February 24, 2012
Posted Under: Uncategorized

We are all aware of the state of the job market at the moment: each vacancy is being chased by an ever-increasing number of jobseekers. As a jobseeker myself, I can only attest to the fact that it really is as bad as it sounds. The realities of workfare hit the news in the last week: businesses aided by the government are picking up on high unemployment by taking on staff without pay under the guise of “work experience”. So far most of those placements reported have been in the private sector, but the practice exists elsewhere.

On my job search I came across some positions advertised by King’s College London. They are currently recruiting “Recruitment Interns”. These internships in the university’s Human Resources Department last for 12 weeks, and are full time (5 days a week, 9am to 5pm).  The internships are unpaid, with KCL only offering travel expenses. These are the exactly the same conditions as those for people on the workfare scheme. Last year, in the middle of the biggest economic crisis the world has seen in decades, KCL ran a budget with a surplus of a whopping £27.5m. One would have thought that this could be used to pay for staff. It is also worth remembering that higher education institutions, such as KCL, get a large amount of funding straight from the taxpayer.

Having looked through the job specification, the interns would be expected to fulfill pretty much all of the roles that would be expected of a paid administrative assistant in any human resources department in any higher education institution. But beyond this, the person specification seems to suggest that KCL are not looking for an intern in any normal sense of the term (i.e. someone who wants to train, to learn skills, in order that they can improve their employability.) The person specification reads as follows:

I have highlighted a few of those requirements of applicants, as they suggest with some clarity that whoever is to apply successfully for these positions must already have the skills necessary to work as an administrator in human resources. I wasn’t sure what a “Certificate in Personnel Practice” was, so I looked it up, and it turns out to be a qualification administered by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. It is aimed at:

  • anyone working at the level of personnel assistant, personnel administrator or personnel officer, whose role is to provide support for key aspects of the personnel function
  • someone new to, or aspiring to, a career in the personnel function
  • line managers, supervisors or team leaders who wish to gain the same level of personnel skills as practitioners at this level
  • the owners or managers of small businesses.

In other words, to get this internship in personnel, you already have to be well qualified. And even then, you won’t be getting paid for your expertise. This is despite the fact that you can expect to pay £1775 to get the qualification.

It is perhaps a final irony that all of this is taking place in the recruitment section of a human resources department. They describe themselves thus: “The recruitment team is a key function within Human Resources and plays a central role in ensuring that the College continues to attract world class talent.” Perhaps they ought to add: “despite your world class talent, please don’t expect to be paid for your work.”

I would be very interested to receive comment on this from King’s College London, or from any trade union branches at the university.

P.S. If anyone is looking for an experienced HE administrator to work part-time, please drop me a line at

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Reader Comments


This is straight up illegal – it’s clearly WORK as defined by government ( so it legally has to be paid at least NMW.

Worrying for all the employees at kings if HR has such a limited understanding of employment law!

Written By Sh on February 24th, 2012 @ 11:49 am

This is just outrageous; its a job, not an internship. I’m shocked at Kings behaviour, although it seems to be happening all over. Good luck with the job hunt!

Written By shirley procter on February 24th, 2012 @ 5:13 pm
the other Richard

I hope you kept screen shots as they have taken down the ad…. for which this blog piece and its retweeters should take some credit, I’m sure

Written By the other Richard on February 24th, 2012 @ 8:24 pm
Ann Ta

Richard Trainor is such a mug ….

Written By Ann Ta on September 25th, 2012 @ 2:36 pm

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