Cancer Research UK becomes one of the first major charities to pay all interns

Tough 10 London


Cancer Research UK has become one of the first major charities to pay all its interns.

From June 2018, the charity will abolish unpaid internships, in a move to drive equality, diversity and inclusion within Cancer Research UK.

The National Minimum Wage law allows charities to have unpaid interns, but the sector has faced criticism that the practice takes advantage of those wanting to start their career in the Third Sector, and is a barrier to those unable to work for free.

Cancer Research UK’s paid internship programme will last for 12 weeks and will give school leavers (aged over 18), undergraduates, graduates and career changers an opportunity to develop their skills and gain work experience.  The internship programme will give successful applicants – who are looking to start their career in the sector – a unique insight into working for a charity, whilst playing their part in the fight against cancer.

Interns will be paid the National Living Wage. Those based in London will receive a London weighting allowance of £3,750 pro-rata for the duration of their internship. This equates to a total payment of approximately £4,153 for a London-based internship. Previously, interns received travel and lunch expenses.

Speaking about the decision, Sir Harpal Kumar, CEO of Cancer Research UK, said, “This is a complex issue but we felt it was the right time to tackle it.”

“It is not right that those who can’t afford to intern unpaid should be excluded from gaining essential experience in an organisation like Cancer Research UK.”

“Cancer Research UK’s priority is to put as much money as possible towards our goal to beat cancer sooner.”

“However, there are some costs that we cannot and should not avoid.”

“That includes paying all our staff a fair wage for their contribution to Cancer Research UK’s progress and future.”

Tanya de Grunwald, founder of UK careers blog, Graduate Fog, which campaigns for fair internships, said, “This is a huge step forward for Cancer Research UK, people who’d love to work there, and the charity sector as a whole.”

“Somewhere along the line, true volunteering and junior charity jobs became conflated, with neither being paid.”

“Disentangling them now is not easy – but there is a difference and it’s important to be clear about it.”

“Volunteers don’t want to be paid; interns will be grateful for the wages they need and deserve.”

“I applaud Cancer Research UK for grasping the nettle.”

“It’s sticky, time-consuming work and nobody likes to admit they need to correct something like this.”

“But in this day and age that’s what leadership looks like.”

“Now Cancer Research UK has provided a template it will be easier for other big charities to follow suit.”

About the author

Alison is the Digital Content Editor for WeAreTheCity. She has a BA Honours degree in Journalism and History from the University of Portsmouth. She has previously worked in the marketing sector and in a copywriting role. Alison’s other passions and hobbies include writing, blogging and travelling.

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