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Appreciate Your Staff or Lose Them Forever

Taking your first steps towards landing your dream job shouldn’t mean working without pay, no matter how new you are to your chosen field, or to the world of work in general.

30th January 2017    |     Chris Evans: Deputy Managing Director, Rolton Group

With unpaid internships and work experience being all too common these days, it’s time for employers everywhere to make a change and uphold their social responsibilities by welcoming the next generation of employees to their workplaces as interns with full pay, in recognition of the valuable contributions that they will be making on a daily basis, just like any other member of the team.

Recently there has been a lot of talk amongst MPs around the issue of unpaid internships with Tory MP Alec Shelbrooke calling unpaid work in any form a "scourge on social mobility"[1]. For many, advancing career prospects by gaining experience through an unpaid internship simply isn’t an option that they can afford to pursue, as not everyone has the luxury of wealthy family members capable of paying bills and keeping a roof overhead while time is spent working without compensation. This fact sadly leaves many aspiring professionals missing out on valuable experiences and taking jobs that don’t suite their skill set or career choices just to keep money coming in for more immediate daily needs.

Although discussions on this topic seem to have halted in the House of Commons for now, workers’ rights (and the general public opinion of them) have come a very long way since the days my grandfather spent standing up for the rights of his workforce in the not too distant past.

Working for a well-known book retailer at the time, my grandfather and his colleagues worked long days standing on platforms in their bookstalls with no heating at all, making winter months particularly challenging, unenjoyable and generally bad for their health. Heating is such a simple thing that we now all take for granted, but back then it was not seen as essential for the workers. My grandfather saw and experienced first-hand how the cold days were affecting morale, health and productivity, and pushed to ensure that heating was provided in all workspaces (which ultimately, it was). I’ve always been proud of his success in standing up for his co-workers in this way, with this slice of heating-related history also appealing to the building services engineer side of me.

When I was younger I always admired my grandfather’s grand certificate that he had hung on his wall, which denoted his long service with the book retailer. I was amazed how, after contracting Spanish Flu in 1918 and going grey practically overnight, he persevered with his career the way he did, dedicating his life to serving his employers, his family and also championing the rights of his fellow colleagues.

Workers’ rights have changed dramatically over the years, continually advancing from ensuring that basic human needs are met without fail to now considering more mundane (yet still important) areas like payment and services.

I was pleased to see the government reviewing the legality of unpaid internships, as with the minefield of unpaid internships, work experiences, trial employment periods and zero hour contracts, it’s often businesses rather than employees that seem to walk away with the better end of the deal. Companies always have the choice to pay employees fairly (regardless of their job title or working arrangement) and in my mind, have a social responsibility to do so to stop unintentional discrimination against potential employees from poorer backgrounds that simply can’t afford to work without pay.

Treating people fairly in all measures, I believe, is critical in achieving the best outcomes for all concerned. I’m proud to work with like-minded individuals, allowing Rolton Group to continually empower, respect and treat each and every one of our employees in the best possible way, which benefits us all. If we expect people to give their time and effort to us free of charge, what does that say to them and to others about how highly we value their contribution to the team? What does it say about our own ethics and morals?

For all companies well respected, motivated and empowered individuals are the best people to have in our teams, so we should learn to appreciate our staff and their efforts or ultimately we could lose them forever; as they say there are plenty more jobs in the proverbial sea!


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