Politics

Charity Using Boris Johnson’s Spouse Marketed For An Unpaid Intern

An animal charity which employs Boris Johnson’s wife has been criticized after it was advertised for an unpaid internship.

The ad on the Aspinall Foundation’s website said they were “looking for a passionate, hardworking individual” to work in the gorilla section at Howletts Wild Animal Park near Canterbury in Kent.

However, it added that they were “unable to offer any wages or salary for the placement”, which could last for up to a year.

Carrie Johnson is director of communications at the Aspinall Foundation.

According to the government, the law makes clear “that any individual performing work, including an intern, is entitled to receive the minimum wage”.

The prime minister has also previously said he supports calls for unpaid internships to be banned.

The job advert – which was taken down after HuffPost UK approached the charity – said “Howletts works in conjunction with The Aspinall Foundation; a charity committed to the conservation of rare and endangered animals through breeding and reintroduction programmes”.

It said the internship is “an excellent opportunity to shadow our keepers and to learn all aspects of animal husbandry”.

The successful candidate “will need to have a good level of physical fitness, be happy working at height and comfortable with heavy lifting”, the ad says.

Anyone interested in applying must be able to commit to work 3-5 days a week for between 6 and 12 months.

The advert said that because the animal park is funded by visitor fees and donations “we regret we are unable to offer any wages or salary for the placement”.

Apart from a uniform and a discount at the park’s food outlets “no other financial benefits are offered”.

The ad said: “Candidates will need to have the ability to financially support themselves for the entire length of the internship.”

The ad on the Aspinall Foundation website which has now been taken down.

Conservative MP Alec Shelbrooke, who has campaigned to end unpaid internships, told HuffPost UK: “There’s no such thing as ‘an excellent opportunity’ if you have to be financially independent to be able to take up the role.

“This is simply rich people giving jobs to other rich people who can afford to work for free. The whole issue of unpaid internships is a stain on the employment laws in this country.”

Responding to Shelbrooke shortly after becoming prime minister in 2019, the PM said he “absolutely endorsed” his campaign to outlaw unpaid internships.

He said: “We should be a meritocracy and people should be able to access jobs not according to who they know, but according to their talents.”

Shelbrooke added: “I hope and pray the prime minister finds a mechanism to outlaw this practice. He committed to doing so at the dispatch box when he first became prime minister and I still hope it’s something that can be addressed.”

A spokesperson for the department for business, energy and industrial strategy said: “The law already states that any individual performing work, including an intern, is entitled to receive the minimum wage and the government is committed to ensuring this happens at all times.

“HMRC has contacted over 2,000 employers found to be advertising unpaid internships online to ensure they comply with the law and regularly reminds businesses employing interns of their responsibilities.”

A spokesperson for the animal park said: “This internship offers a unique opportunity to train with some of the most knowledgeable conservation professionals in the world. It is offered by the Howletts Wild Animal Trust. Carrie Johnson is employed by the Aspinall Foundation, a separate organization.”

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