Student campaigners struck a blow for fairer pay last week when they persuaded the RIBA to introduce a minimum wage for the first time.
Under the new guidelines on work experience, practices should pay at least £5.60 an hour outside London and £6.70 an hour in London, an annual salary of £10,000 or £12,000 a year.
The student campaign leaders Nick Hayhurst and Eleanor Kay described the ruling as 'victory at last' after similar measures were thrown out by the RIBA just three months ago. 'Practices have unashamedly exploited students, ' Hayhurst stormed. 'There are students who have to ask for weekends off and feel they are letting the team down if they leave before 2am.These are sweatshop conditions. I think that this will have an incredible impact because students will be able to stand up and say that they know their rights, ' added Kay.
The duo pledged to continue their campaign until it was proved that practices had stopped underpaying year-out students. They will follow a group of about 60 students going out on work experience and monitor their pay and conditions.
'If we find that this isn't working it will give us a stronger argument to go to the ARB and get these practices struck off the register, 'Hayhurst said.
But the policy immediately led to complaints from small practitioners that they often do not earn more than this. 'It would be impossible to employ students on the same wage, ' said RIBA council member David Thorpe.
The minimum wage also raises the question of whether practices would face disciplinary action if they breach the new guidelines.The chair of the RIBA's disciplinary committee, Jim Cuthbertson, said he has 'an open mind about how the institute would deal with a complaint'. He said it was unclear if individual architects or whole practices should be held responsible for breaching the rule. The profession's ruling body also agreed to ensure that all year-out placements are covered by a contract of employment including agreed hours of work, conditions for overtime, holiday and sick pay.