France's 1.2 million interns are one step closer to getting mandatory pay and other benefits after the Senate approved a bill this week that would guarantee them a minimum wage of €523 per month.
Initially the minimum wage in the bill had been set at €436 per month, but senators votedto bring it up to €523. As an alternative to paying more employers can grant interns more restaurant vouchers, that are worth around €8 on average in France.
Interns in France are often seen as being taken advantage of by big companies, who use them to do the job of a normal paid member of staff.
Many postgraduates will be forced to complete several internships, before they have a chance of landing a job.
While the bill must still be ironed out, the Senate's approval and raising of the minimum wage, drew jubilation from France junior minister for higher education and research Geneviève Fioraso.
"This law is a long time coming for the 1.2 million high schoolers and college students who, every year, gain their first work experience via internships," she said, according to AFP. "It's a message of trust and responsibility between stakeholders, companies and host organizations."
Here are the main points of the bill:
- Entitlement to the same benefits as employees: Interns wouldn’t be allowed to work longer hours than employees and they cannot be assigned to "dangerous" tasks. Interns would also be entitled to meal vouchers, paid holidays (vacation) and subsidies towards the cost of taking public transport to work.
- Interns to be paid: Pay would be mandatory for any internship. In the initial bill that wage was set at €436 per month for internships over two months, but the Senate raised that to €523 and scrapped the two month rule.
- Labour laws strengthened: The legislation would extend the powers of French labor inspectors who are tasked with identifying and punishing companies that use internships for essentially undeclared jobs. Another provision would shorten to one month the deadline for France’s labour court to decide if an intern status should be converted to that of an employee.
- Limited number of interns: The bill would set a limit on the number of interns that would be calculated according to the number of employees at a company. The ratio would be set by France’s highest administrative court, the Conseil d’Etat (state council), and is expected to be 10 percent of the company’s workforce. Violations of the limit could be punished with fines.
Conservatives and the business community have been detractors of the legislation for the start with France’s business leaders’ union MEDEF objecting on the claim it will add to “management costs.”
The bill has also drew criticism from a potentially unlikely source. French watchdog group, Génération Précaire, which advocates for better conditions for interns, slammed the legislation for not going far enough.
In a tweet the group previously denounced those behind the proposed law for "refusing to improve the situation for interns."