Q: My partner and I have been in business for about six months. We’re finally in a position where more work is coming in than we can handle. However, it’s not paying enough at present to fund a third salary. A solution has popped up in the son of a friend – he’s a bright guy, but has gone straight from college and onto the dole. He’s willing to work on an internship basis, and we could definitely afford to pay him €50 a week to cover his expenses. Should we go ahead with this arrangement, or are there potential snags facing us?
A: Unfortunately, life could get complicated for your friend’s son if you do this. Particularly since the introduction of JobBridge, officials in local Social Welfare Offices have taken a relatively dim view of unpaid internships. Officially, it’s always been a dicey issue: if somebody is turning up somewhere to work from nine to five, even with a view to turning it into a full-time position, then they’re not exactly available and looking for work. However, decision-makers that might have fudged the issue are becoming more hard-line in our experience. Your intern may well be faced with quitting your firm or having his payment stopped, which would effectively force him back onto the dole – and leave you without your new recruit.
You have, as I see it, three options here. First of all, you could go through the JobBridge scheme – in this case, he’d get an extra €50 and you’d get his labour with a view to training him up and taking him on as a paid employee in the future. To be eligible for a JobBridge place, he’ll need to have been on the dole for three months. If the business has at least one full time employee (employed for 30 hours or more per week, and subject to PAYE and PRSI), then you’re eligible to advertise a position. If this is a fit for you both, put up the ad and register the internship. You’ll find more information about the scheme on www.jobbridge.ie.
If this isn’t a runner, there are alternatives. Firstly, you could consider employing him on low or minimum wage for a set amount of hours in the week, while making if clear that you intend to add to his workload. He will still be entitled to his payment for days that he is not working.
An alternative is to employ him as a contractor – initially for a small fee. This effectively makes him self-employed. While his entitlement to social welfare payments will be affected, he may still be eligible for Jobseeker’s Allowance. This all depends on his circumstances, and he can find out a bit more on www.selfemployedsupports.ie. If you’re leaning towards this set-up, this young man needs to understand the implications for him personally.
In any case, in fact, he should talk to his case worker in the local Social Welfare office to review his options. While it should be possible to get this guy on board, he needs to be aware of how it might impact on him.