Brussels Consulting Firms Stunned as Ban on Unpaid Interns Means Partners May Have to Do Work
Brussels consulting firms reacted with shock and outrage after Belgium was told to ban unpaid internships – a move that will almost certainly force partners, directors and ‘senior advisors’ to actually work their billable hours.
“This is a shock and an outrage,” said one leading consultant, who declined to be identified because he was billing two clients during this interview. “How are we supposed to have time for important networking lunches and travel among various taxable residences if we have to start doing client work? Plus, who is going to train the next generation of consultants if we can’t exploit today’s hard-working indentured servants? I mean interns!”
A ruling from the European Committee of Social Rights said countries must do more to protect vulnerable and disadvantaged young stagiaires, singling out Belgium’s high rate of unpaid internships.
Another consultant said that unpaid interns gain valuable experience working behind the scenes to monitor legislation, prepare analytical reports, attend conferences and pick up dry cleaning.
“Look, I suppose we could probably pay our interns something,” the consultant said, in a written statement composed by an unnamed associate. “But then we’d have to raise our hourly rates all up and down the flow-chart. At the end of the day, we need to do more blue-sky thinking and really go ‘glocal’. That’s global and local, by the way…”
A European Commission spokesperson for internal policies declined to comment on the report, saying an investigation on the usage of interns in DG Communications had been suspended when it was found the investigative work was being done by the stagiaires.