Tool #8: Ethical contract and quality charter

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It is hard to say what an ethical contract may look like within a system so flawed and inherently exploitative – often both for interns and for those running small studios. Yet, setting out reciprocal obligations in the form of a contract can give you ground for negotiating and help you get what you really want from your internship. We know that speaking out is difficult, especially in small workplaces and when you feel your future job might be in the hands of your new supervisor. But, it is often our collective silence that allows for these unfair conditions to become the norm. An ethical contract doesn’t solve the issue of free labour and low-paid, precarious work conditions, but it makes possible the start of a conversation in your workplace.

Contract for an Ethical Internship

1. Intern Induction: A detailed induction shall be carried out on the first day of the placement, covering introductions to other staff, office procedures, expected practice in an office environment, health and safety, details of complaint procedures and company confidentiality requirements.

2. Preliminary Assessment and Tasks:
2.1 Assessment of intern’s skills shall determine aim of tasks during employment. Intern is allowed to negotiate the terms of these tasks.
2.2 Intern is to be given a variety of tasks that fully utilize their skills.
2.3 Intern shall not be given repetitive tasks.

3. Assigning Supervisor / Mentor and Inclusion:
3.1 Upon commencement of internship a supervisor or mentor is assigned to the intern, with whom a contract with clear learning objectives and tasks is formulated from the start.
3.2 Intern shall be given the opportunity to shadow supervisor/mentor and to sit in on meetings, and see how processes work, how decisions are made.
3.3 Intern shall not be excluded from meetings.

4. Expenses: Travel and lunch expenses will always be included when paid wage is not present.

5. Exit Interview:
5.1 An exit interview with mentor and intern where by an assessment of contracted goals set at beginning of internship is discussed. Documentation of this shall be provided to intern.
5.2 Even if the internship in the institution doesn’t lead to a job there, there should be some support for finding a job afterwards.
5.3 Repetitive relocation within same institution of internships is not allowed. Intern must be offered contracted paid position.
5.4 Workplace must limit the number of internships, having clear progression to paid and contracted work.

6. Special Consideration: Consideration should be given to potential interns who cannot afford to work full time for free opening opportunity to workers from all economic backgrounds. (Eg. Limiting work hours during week, limiting length of internships, stipends if the hours required exceed a certain amount.)

7. Acknowledging Contribution and Credit: Projects in which intern contributes labour, acknowledgment by name and recognised contribution shall be given. I accept the terms outlined in this contract for an ethical internship.
Signature of Employee _________________________________________ Date ____/____/________
Signature of Employer _________________________________________ Date ____/____/________

“Ethical contract” has been adapted from a text by the Carrotworkers’ Collective.

Online you can also find several quality charters and examples of ethical contracts that address both the intern and the employer. For example, the European Parliament proposes to all the European providers of internships and apprenticeships to adopt the European Quality Charter on internships and apprenticeships, in order to commit to quality standards and to apply a clear and coherent code of conduct.

Last edit: 05.06.2014