Department investigates over 200 complaints into conduct of JobBridge firms

Thirteen companies banned from employing new interns

 Taoiseach Enda Kenny  with Martin Murphy, managing director of HP Ireland and chairman of the steering group on JobBridge, at the launch of the Government’s  national internship scheme in 2011. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Taoiseach Enda Kenny with Martin Murphy, managing director of HP Ireland and chairman of the steering group on JobBridge, at the launch of the Government’s national internship scheme in 2011. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Sun, Apr 7, 2013, 19:52


A total of 211 companies that have employed interns under the Government’s JobBridge scheme have been investigated by the Department of Social Protection.

They follow complaints such as participants feeling they did not receive an adequate internship, or that existing jobs were replaced with the Government-funded interns.

Following an investigation, complaints can be unsubstantiated, brought forward for a follow-up investigation or lead to the disqualification of companies from the scheme.

More than 7,000 companies have taken part in the JobBridge scheme. They are expected to provide a good-quality placement for those taking part, who receive the social welfare allowance as well as an additional €50 a week for their work.


Allegations substantiated
Figures provided by the Department of Social Protection show that of the 211 allegations made, 38 have been substantiated by investigators.

Of these, follow-up investigations were required into 25 companies, while 13 firms were banned from taking any more interns under the scheme.

Of the companies axed from the scheme, four are in Dublin, two in Cork and one each in counties Laois, Meath, Tipperary, Sligo, Kildare, Galway and Westmeath. The department would not release company names for data protection reasons.

Up to 60 complaints were made by participants who felt they did not receive an adequate internship, while 51 related to claims that existing jobs were replaced with the Government-funded interns.

Allegations that companies failed to comply with the terms and conditions of JobBridge accounted for 35 complaints. Twenty complaints were made over allegations of poor treatment by employers and for a lack of supervision or peer monitoring, while 15 complaints were made due to internships not being as advertised. Ten complaints were lodged for other reasons.


Disqualified
A former JobBridge intern for a disqualified company, who wishes to remain anonymous in case discussing the scheme harms career prospects, said the department should name all banned businesses.

“They’re getting away with it. They can’t take on JobBridge interns anymore, but they can go through trainee programmes. That way they won’t have to pay people the minimum wage too.

“I was left to my own devices for 4½ months. Then one Friday I just left. I didn’t turn off my computer, I didn’t clean out my desk and I didn’t let anyone know. The following week I saw that company advertising for another intern on the JobBridge website.”

A spokeswoman for the department said it went through thorough checks to ensure placements were beneficial for interns and that employers were not taking advantage of them.

“In addition to the investigation of complaints, JobBridge internships are monitored at all stages, from application and advertising by host organisations, eligibility of applicant interns, monthly online compliance verification by host organisations and regular onsite monitoring visits of internships by Department of Social Protection officials.”

An independent review of JobBridge published in October found that just over half of all participants found employment after their placement.

The scheme was set up by the Government in 2011 to provide six- to nine-month internships for people on social welfare for at least three months.