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Ep 449: The Exit Fee Scandal

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I know that many of you who listen to this podcast are very aware of the quality of your employee experience and the importance of your employer brand reputation. However, as the balance in the workforce between permanent hires, contractors, and project-based workers evolves, do you still truly understand all the factors influencing your employer brand?

My guest this week is Tanya de Grunwald, journalist and founder of The Good And Fair Employers Club. Tanya is a long time campaigner for the rights of young people in the workplace and has been working tirelessly to expose the use of exit or training fees by some IT outsourcing companies. This interview is an absolute must listen for everyone working for an organization that contract in workers from external providers.

In the interview, we discuss:

• What are exit fees, and what are their implications for young people?

• The implications of denying people the right to move jobs

• The legal position

• Activism

• Outsourcing and placement: who is and isn’t an employee?

• Why have employers been so slow to act

• Ethics in procurement and supplier management

• Providing consistent values and experience for the entire workforce

• Whistleblowing & PR disasters

• Good and fair employers

Listen to this podcast on Apple Podcasts.

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Matt Alder (Intro) (1m 5s):
Hi there, this is Matt Alder. Welcome to Episode 449 of The Recruiting Future Podcast. I know that many of you who listen to this podcast are very aware of the quality of your employee experience and the importance of your employer brand reputation. However, as the balance in the workforce between permanent hires, contractors, and project-based workers evolves, do you still truly understand all the factors influencing your employer brand? My guest this week is Tanya de Grunwald, journalist and founder of The Good and Fair Employers Club.

Matt Alder (Intro) (1m 45s):
Tanya is a long time campaigner for the rights of young people in the workplace and has been recently working tirelessly to expose the use of exit or training fees by some IT outsourcing companies. This interview is an absolute must listen for everyone working for an organization that contract in workers from external providers.

Matt Alder (2m 9s):
Hi. It’s my absolute pleasure to be talking to Tanya de Grunwald join journalist, and author, and founder of the graduate careers blog Graduate Fog. Tanya, welcome to the podcast. Perhaps we could start by you just doing a quick introduction to you and your work.

Tanya de Grunwald (2m 27s):
Thank you so much for having me on, Matt. It’s pretty good to be here talking about all this work I’ve been doing lately. So yeah, so I run a website called Graduate Fog, which, until recently was best known for naming and shaming people that have unpaid interns. So in the past, I named champ Tony Blair, and Simon Cowell, and Philip Green, which was loads of fun. So that was kind of what I was best known for. And that was started in kind of 2010. And so the campaigning element has really run through most of my work. I was a journalist before then as well, pricing for women’s magazines, mainly. But now I’m working within the youth job space, but really on the side of young people. So basically campaigning for good jobs for young people.

Matt Alder (3m 5s):
But does it have and you do some amazing work. We’ve known each other for a long time.

Tanya de Grunwald (3m 9s):
Yeah.

Matt Alder (3m 9s):
And it’s been really interesting to track the different issues that you’ve taken up and some of the great content that you’ve produced. Your most recent campaign has been about Exit Fees. And it’s something that hit the national press in the UK, and the main reason that are waiting to kind of have you on the show to talk about it, basically. Just to start at the very, very beginning, for people listening who might not be aware. What our exit fees? And what’s been going on?

Tanya de Grunwald (3m 39s):
Pretty much for years ago, I started getting emails from graduates, who were saying to me that they were stuck in their roles. And they were really distressed, and they wanted to leave. But they couldn’t because they had to pay these massive fees if they left in less than two years. And I said, “Well, how much?” And typically it was 15 to 20,000 pounds. And I was like, “Hold on a minute. What? You have to pay 15 to 20 grand to leave your graduate jobs.” As a first job we’ve had to offer University. And they said, “Yes.” And I said, “Well, why?” And they said, “Oh, well. It’s a sort of training repayment fee. So we’ve been trained for a few months in these many IT companies, IT outsourcing firms. We’ve been trained, and so the training was free when we did it.

Tanya de Grunwald (4m 20s):
But if we leave in less than two years, then the company says they want to be reimbursed for that money.” So I was like, “Okay, well, what’s the training?” And I just couldn’t see how what they were describing could possibly match the scale of the fees have been asked to pay. So it was typically up to three months of training. And it seemed to be really, really poor quality from what they were describing. It was quite disturbing some of it because it was lots of them were really, really distressed. They were talking about an impact on their physical health and their mental health. And they seemed very, very vulnerable to me. I’m now 42. And I’ve been working in this area for a long time. I’m been working with unpaid interns for a long time.

Tanya de Grunwald (5m 0s):
It also seemed vulnerable. But they didn’t seem quite as distressed and I really felt quite uncomfortable with the level of distress they were reporting. There was one actually, he was talking about wanting to have a breakdown in the hope that he might be let off these fees on kind of compassionate grounds. And I thought, “Oh my God, how is this happening? This does not seem right.” So basically, I noticed quite quickly that they were mainly ethnic minority disproportionately, not all, and mainly from lower socio economic groups. So it wasn’t quite clear to me how that why that was relevant. It became clear later on. But they basically didn’t have a parent to advise them. And they had no funding for legal advice. And so they were coming to me having seen the work that I’d done on unpaid internships and things like that, and then the word was kind of spreading that I was interested in this space.

Tanya de Grunwald (5m 47s):
So I started working with a couple of lawyers. One of which is Jolyon Maugham, who you may know it was taking on the government in the UK. There’s another chap called Simon Cheatham, which is a fabulous name for a lawyer. So they’re both QC’s, and they very kindly advise me on this stuff for the next sort of three years or so. And within the UK, there’s different sort of employment law around the country. But within the UK, it seems that these fees are not actually illegal in the UK, and that they’re not, there’s no law actually banning them. But both of them said, “Hang on a minute, these actually very, very open to being challenged, once it gets to court, on various grounds.” So not to get too technical. But the problem was, of course, these cases weren’t getting to court, because very few get graduates were taking the risk of leaving.

Tanya de Grunwald (6m 32s):
Because I knew that if they did leave, and the ones who weren’t leaving, we’re seeing this, they were being chased very aggressively for the fees. So it’s a horrible position to be in, most of them are just staying put, and just waiting it out. There were disturbing things going on within that, which is that some of them were being either bullied, or harassed, or whatever by the clients, who they were placed with because these are all IT outsourcing firms who have placed the graduates within big companies, and not necessarily big companies but all companies. And the graduates themselves, were in a position with had very, very little support. One of the few female graduates I encountered said that she was being sexually harassed by a manager. And she basically couldn’t leave her job.

Tanya de Grunwald (7m 12s):
And I thought, “How have we got a situation where people can’t leave their job?” Now your final card, no matter how bad your job is, anywhere ever is that you can leave, right? And the minute that’s taken away from you, it’s a whole very dark situation. So that’s kind of where we got to say, “We got stuck with the legal aspect of it.” So then, but this time last year, I started a campaign called Stop Exit Fees Now, which has continued. And I’ve had a lot of success recently, which is probably what you’ve seen.

Matt Alder (7m 39s):
Absolutely. And I really want to kind of talk about that. And I’ve got questions about exactly about what’s going on with these exit fees. Because I’ve got a feeling that lots of people listening might not be aware of this. We’ve got lots of people listening from lots of different countries. But I think the issues raised here are relevant across lots of different geographies. Before we dive into it, I just want to give people an extra bit of context about you and your work. Because you mentioned the unpaid internship campaign that you run for many years taking on some of the biggest names in British industry. Tell us a little bit more about that. And how perhaps some of the learnings from that helped you form this campaign that will go on to talk about in a bit more detail.

Tanya de Grunwald (8m 20s):
Yeah, um, it certainly did. I mean, I started graduate at Fog in 2010. With really, I thought it was going to be careers advice website. I’ve written a book about careers. And I thought that was going to be. But actually, the unpaid internships stuff took off really, really quickly. And the way I was doing it was basically getting in touch with people who I had found out had unpaid interns, because those intensive come to me, or that people had seen an advert for an unpaid internship with a very big firm, with a very famous person, because at that time, they were being advertised very openly. And within the UK, and I think it’s the same around the world, actually, this that unpaid internships around that time were considered much more like, “Oh, well, you know, it’s a bit of a gray area.

Tanya de Grunwald (9m 1s):
It’s great for him to get some experience. And you know, everyone gets something out of it.” And so there was very much a kind of naivety around the conversation. And I basically had a huge amount of arguments with people around that time, to be honest, Matt, with some various parties and things. Were people telling me, “No, it was fine, particularly people who worked in fashion and politics.” Well, that’s how I got in. And that’s how I got into media and all this. So there was a lot of kind of feeling around that. And I really broke that down and said, “Hang on a minute. It’s not fair. And even if you don’t believe you’re exploiting the person that’s working for free, you are still excluding all the people that can’t afford to work for free.” And actually, that second piece is really what came to the fore within the next kind of five years or so because of course, as we know, now, it became much clearer that it’s part of a much bigger, wider conversation about diversity and social mobility, and unpaid internships are one part of that.

Tanya de Grunwald (9m 50s):
So that became clear in the context. So I could see that exit fees were again, a similar sort of thing in that way. What I’d also learned, quite frankly, from unpaid internships, was how it’ll prepared press departments are to being asked questions about, “Hey, what are you doing? This doesn’t seem right.” And how often the person who sends you a response on behalf of a huge company, or a very famous person was a very casual, you know, “Oh, well, I don’t know what you’re making such a fuss about Tanya.” And because I’m not like a world famous campaign, I’m not Michael Moore, you know, people sort of dismissed me. And I kind of let them do that. And then what happened was that I would then post about this on Graduate Fog.

Tanya de Grunwald (10m 33s):
You know, we saw this ad, but we didn’t think this look right. And then this is what we wrote to them. And this is what they wrote back. And I would basically publish the whole thing. And it’s quite a long blog post, but hey, it’s my blog, I can write whatever I want on it. There’s no word length limit. So people will just read the whole thing. So again, with exit fees, I did the same thing of actually being. I mean, it’s confrontational. And I guess, some people would think I’m just a real nightmare, but I just will not let this go. I think it’s really important, and no one else will do it. And I do it for free. I do have another income as well, thank god now. But at the time, I didn’t. But I don’t think press offices, and I don’t think big companies understand the energy that activists have and how we can be an absolute pain in the neck.

Tanya de Grunwald (11m 19s):
And the more you tell us to go away, the more we’re going to cause more and more trouble for you. So I think there are a lot of things in that as well. And actually, it’s just a kind of David and Goliath story, which people love. I mean, it’s not necessarily me, who’s David, it’s the graduates who are David. But I am fighting on their behalf. And I’m their representative. And I just keep slinging these little stones at these big companies. And actually, they don’t know what kind of support I have. And people who follow me on Twitter who were very helpful to me retweet stuff, for example. Things can go massive very, very quickly, hence the press coverage that you’ve seen.

Matt Alder (11m 53s):
And I suppose coming back to that, coming back to the exit fee campaign. So to clarify, these are companies predominantly out of the IT sector. They’re employing graduates. They’re giving them very short periods of training. They’re then saying that if they want to leave before a certain time, they have to pay them a huge amount of money. But then placing these graduates in other organizations, kind of also embedding them in that organization. So it’s quite complicated setup. Lots of companies involved, maybe some of them unwittingly. Tell us about the campaign. Tell us what you found. Tell us what happened.

Tanya de Grunwald (12m 33s):
So yes, you’re right. They have, I mean, these graduates are basically put on placements with big companies. So no one’s heard of their actual employer, typically. Well, we have FDM being the biggest, but they will send out these graduates on placements to bigger firms that people have heard of. So some of the clients of some of the firm’s include AstraZeneca, Department of Work and Pensions, BP, Sky, HSBC, are one of FTMs biggest clients. So they send them out to work on client projects. So these people actually typically working on the premises of these clients.

Tanya de Grunwald (13m 14s):
They’re working on projects that are confidential to those clients. And yet, there seems to be some confusion about the status of these people. They are bought in kind of as a service. I know, yuck, right? They’re sort of they’re not really people. They’re kind of like bought, they’re bought service, which grosses me out completely. But that’s kind of how they’re considered and they’re bought in. And what their actual employer will do is to promise the client that you can have these actual graduates for two years, right? They’re not going anywhere. You can have these 10 people, these 50 people, these 100 people for two years. At which point, I think any client, who’s got their brain switched on.

Tanya de Grunwald (13m 56s):
You should say, how on earth can you possibly guarantee that? Right?

Matt Alder (13m 59s):
Mm.

Tanya de Grunwald (13m 59s):
So I don’t, I still haven’t quite got to the bottom of that are, were they asking those questions? Or were they just turning a blind eye? I don’t know. I still don’t know the answer to that question. I’ve got some ideas about some of the clients. But basically, that kind of allowed the employer who I call the exit fees firm to basically have this massive ability to send out these clients, that these young graduates, and just basically kind of farming them out effectively, and not be that bothered about where they ended up. Now, lots of those clients are really nice companies. And they’re great places to work. And some of those graduates are very happy there. But others were not. And those are the ones who I’m interested in. So people have sometimes said to me, “Oh, you need to be more balanced Tanya.

Tanya de Grunwald (14m 42s):
White more balance. We’re not balanced because I’m the person that gets the 2AM emails from the ones who this is not working for. That’s why I’m not balanced. And yes, I am angry about this. And I’m gonna say so.

Matt Alder (14m 52s):
Talk to us about, talk us through the campaign. So you took the legal advice. You started the campaign. How did the campaign run?

Tanya de Grunwald (15m 3s):
Well, initially, what I’d hoped to do was to identify the clients. Some of which I had preexisting relationships with through my other work. I run a good and fair employers club, which is a club for good employers of young people, and they meet up once a month. And so I’ve got relationships with the early careers people within these companies. And so I sort of thought, well, I know they’re good doing good stuff themselves and their early career stuff. I know they are. So I’m sure that if I just say to them, “Oh, do you know, by the way, can you tell your IT guys that you’re using this horrible firm, and this is how they’re operating? Could you just tell them that?” And if they and ask them to drop that supplier, ask them to replace them with someone who doesn’t charge exit fees.

Tanya de Grunwald (15m 43s):
Exit fees don’t seem to fit with any of your, as this huge brand, whoever it is. That it seems to fit with your values. You’re doing loads of great stuff on diversity and social mobility, you know, you’re supported that lives matter and pride and all this other stuff that we all do now. So I just sort of thought naively, now, they just say, “Oh, my god, this is so terrible. Thank you so much, Tanya. We have no idea. We’ll certainly look at this.” And I thought they might even grab it as an opportunity to do something useful. And that could actually present themselves in a really positive way to young people saying, “This is how we’re helping them really practical way. I’m asking them to do something very specific, very practical. They just didn’t do it, Matt.

Tanya de Grunwald (16m 23s):
They just didn’t do it. So I just thought, “What the hell that was really disappointing.” And actually, to be honest, the campaign was originally called ‘Stop Exit Fees By Xmas’, because I was that confident that it was going to happen. I started that in August. And of course, by Xmas, I was nowhere close to it, because I didn’t get the support that I thought I would get. So basically, at that point, I had to do it the hard way. The hard way for them and the hard way for me, which is to write to them more efficiently, right to their press offices and say, “You’re working with this company, this is how this company operates. What’s your position?” And then I basically call them out on LinkedIn. So LinkedIn has been my friend during this. LinkedIn has allowed me to have a platform where I’m talking to the industry about this stuff.

Tanya de Grunwald (17m 5s):
And I’m saying, “Guys, we need to do better than this. This is happening under our noses. This company, and this company, and this company, are doing this. These companies are their clients.” And I would tag them all in. Now, you know, anyone that uses LinkedIn, will probably, you know, particular within our space will know that people are generally — I mean, some people are a bit out there. But mostly, it’s quite polite stuff. Whereas, I’m actually doing proper activism on what is usually quite a dull website platform, right? So people like, “Oh, my God, I can’t believe Tanya is actually tagging them.” And so I was tagging in FTM, and Kubrick, and Sparta, and QA, and all the other firms that were doing it. Three of them and still one of them still is.

Tanya de Grunwald (17m 46s):
It was like really fun, actually. And that’s activism and it’s in your face. And I was doing it, I was the right side of the law. I was polite. I wasn’t swearing it but I was saying, “Guys, this is happening under our noses, we cannot allow this to happen. Why are we as an industry turning a blind eye to this? This is not right. And we know it what’s happening?” And I just wouldn’t let it go.

Matt Alder (18m 8s):
What’s been the outcome of all that? All that work? Of all that publicity? You know, as the beginning, you know, I’ve seen the articles that you’ve generated in things like the FT and other publications. What’s been the outcome of that approach?

Tanya de Grunwald (18m 24s):
It’s been pretty ugly, to be honest, Matt. I’ve been moments when it has been pretty nasty. And at one point, it seemed to have uncovered a situation where one of these firms was telling one of, at least one of their clients that they dropped exit fees. But I knew that firm have not told the graduates that. So it seems like there was at least let’s put this politely some inconsistency in the messaging going on there. So, you know, I’ve seen a lot of emails between people that, you know, anyway, I’ve seen a lot of stuff. So but I think, I’ve actually pulled out kind of some learnings that from what I’ve discovered, which I think might be helpful for your listeners as well.

Tanya de Grunwald (19m 5s):
So I think the first point is around procurement and supplier management. I would say, what I’ve seen is that there’s a lot more work to be done when onboarding new suppliers. Because if these companies are getting through operate like this, then to me, it’s quite clear that the right questions are not being asked when these times are taken on the suppliers. So there’s something around that. Are you asking enough questions about do you use do this specific question about do you use exit fees? Sometimes there’s something quite vague in there about like, you know, do you do anything that might bring us into disrepute? Well, that’s a bit of an iffy question, isn’t it? So you can easily just say, “No, of course we don’t.” So I think there needs to be more robust on the questioning there.

Tanya de Grunwald (19m 45s):
There’s also and this seems to be almost a bigger problem. There’s a problem with being able to ditch bad suppliers, particularly when they are really embedded within your business. So companies seem to make rather vague claims like, “Oh, you know, our supplier relationships are under constant review.” But actually, when you raise it as an issue, it feels I can ask them to take the eggs out of the cake. Because these young people are so embedded in their business in a project, a big tech project, which they’re halfway through, and they’ve got 50 of these grads. They can’t get rid of the — like how are they going to extract these grads? Replace them with grads from a different firm? So it’s just all way too embedded into enmeshed. I mean, you know, that’s a difficult problem.

Tanya de Grunwald (20m 26s):
It’s not my problem to solve. I’m drawing attention to it. That’s my job. But I think it’s the job of these bigger companies to think actually, should we ever be so embedded with a supplier that we can’t get rid of them? I mean, that seems to be like quite a basic question to me. Because issues like this are going to arise with suppliers more and more. You know, there’s all this supply chain stuff. It’s just, you know, this is only one example. So I think there’s questions around suppliers.

Matt Alder (20m 53s):
And I think just to add there that so many organizations are talking about with their own social responsibility. The, you know –

Tanya de Grunwald (21m 4s):
Oh, yeah, they love it.

Matt Alder (21m 5s):
— forward as an organization, and how that they know, their suppliers are a big part of that. And, you know, perhaps this indicates that practically things that are happening do not necessarily correspond with the messages that are being put out there.

Tanya de Grunwald (21m 18s):
Yeah, I think there’s two ways in which that’s true. So my second one was about double standards, which I think you’re right in that huge brands don’t seem to have worked out yet, how responsible they are for what happens with their suppliers. So they seem to have worked out that they are, they have some responsibility. Because as you say, sort of within supply chains, you know, that there are questions about slave labor. I’m an employee, a supplier to lots of these firms. And I get asked whether I, you know, modern slavery, and you get asked those questions. So there is an acknowledgement that they have some responsibility here. The problem here is when you’re talking about people who are being bought in, or the not employees. So they’re in this sort of gray area, that they’re sort of considered contractors, and they’re not kind of in one group or the other.

Tanya de Grunwald (22m 3s):
So I mean, I haven’t you know, it’s we’re talking about people, and you might young people, particularly vulnerable people, and I think clients need to decide, particularly when you’ve got, these are people who are not in far flung countries. Even though we say we are responsible for the far flung countries as well. But this is even more compelling because these people are on your premises right now. They’re having lunch in your canteen, they’re going to your Christmas party, they’re going for drinks with your team on a Friday night at the pub. These are your people under your roof. And you’re saying you’re not responsible for them. Or are you? Because lots of the firms said, “Oh, well, you know, they’re just a third party supplier. We need to deal with the details of their contracts.”

Matt Alder (22m 42s):
Exactly. And again, interestingly, because I think a lot of the TA leaders and the HR leaders who are who are listening. You know, having to look much more holistically about what talent means to their business. And that’s not just full time employees, that’s people in contract employees, project employees, outsourced employees, all those kinds of things, and how do you have consistent values and employee experience for your entire workforce, however, that workforce is made up. And I think that to me, is a really interesting aspect of that. That it really identifies perhaps how far organizations have to go to truly achieve that level of thinking level.

Tanya de Grunwald (23m 24s):
Yeah, and also worth making the point that if your brand is much bigger and much sexier than their actual employer, they will probably go around telling their friends. They are telling their friends, they work for you, and not for the employer. So this is actually coming back on you even whether you know it or not.

Matt Alder (23m 41s):
Absolutely. What are the other learnings that you got from this?

Tanya de Grunwald (23m 46s):
So to come round, you mentioned about, so we talked about suppliers already. There’s a whole issue around diversity with this, which is quite complicated. But, as we’ve all seen, most big employers have figured out they need to do better on diversity. And lots of them are doing better on diversity. But I think what the campaign like this exposes, in a way, and I’m from a very middle class, comfortable background. I wiped myself. So I’m not going to say I’m a diversity campaigner. I host a lot of conversations for people from various different groups. But that’s not really what I am. But I think what I have done in doing this work is exposing yet another example of how there is discrimination within the ways that these structures are working and who they’re working for?

Tanya de Grunwald (24m 31s):
So there’s clearly a gap here between what these brands are saying and what they actually do. And as I said, I gave them a very, I thought quite easy to task. Okay, it wasn’t that easy in the end, but I gave them a task to do that would show how much they care about this stuff and they all fluffed it. Actually Christie’s, the Auction House, who were like one of the oldest auction houses in the world, they may be the oldest, were the only people who came back to me and said, “Oh, my god, Tanya, we had no idea. This is awful. We used to work with one of these companies, and we never will again. Please make sure people know that.” I thought, “Oh my god. How is it that Christie’s Auction House which clearly have other issues to do with diversity?” You know, I’m not going to say they’re perfect on everything.

Tanya de Grunwald (25m 14s):
But how is it that their press office person went alert? This sounds awful, let’s distance ourselves. And yet, huge banks are not smart enough to do that.” So there’s something there. And I think, presenting yourself as a champion of social mobility, having black lives matter, all over your social media, pride, all this comes up, it doesn’t mean anything, if you don’t come through, if you can’t get your act together to be reactive, like this. Actually Channel 4 even weren’t that great. I thought Channel 4 a bit all over this. I mean, I had to drag them into that. I really did. And then they eventually said, “Okay, we went work with foster again.” Which was great. But I mean, it was hard work. And I thought God, this is Channel 4.

Tanya de Grunwald (25m 55s):
Anyway, I love Channel 4, but that was not their finest moment. So I guess there’s that whole, there’s, you know, I mean, diversity is a massive issue in itself. And I’m sure you’ve done lots of podcasts on that separately. But this is certainly an example of that not working. So point number four is that whistleblowing is broken that to about 4000 graduates per year have been stuck on these contracts. And this has been going on for years and years and years. So this is a big, big thing today. I’m not saying that’s only in the UK, right? So this has been happening on a huge scale. So if all of those young people have had why don’t know between one, and four, or five managers during the time they’ve been working under those contracts, it’s likely that 10,000 more managers will have been aware within the client companies, will have been aware that these grads have not free to leave their jobs.

Tanya de Grunwald (26m 45s):
Now, even if a small proportion of those people flags it to their manager going, “Did you know,” that actually this company that we use FDM, or Sparser, or Kubrick or whatever it was. “Do you know that the grants that we’re hiring it and aren’t free to leave?” This doesn’t feel very asked, Do you think we should look into this? This feels a bit gross? Is it just me? Like if those questions, there’s conversations did happen, right? Some of them did happen. And what I’ve heard is that some of those people were told us, “Yeah, I know. We know. We’re not mad about it. But you know, we’ve used this company for a long time. And really, we’ve got really senior links. You know, the boss’s, boss’s, boss’s boss knows the boss of that company, so we’re never gonna ditch them. This supplier relationship is just too long sounding and too embedded to ever be dumped.” So there’s a whistleblowing issue there, which I think is also kind of creepy.

Tanya de Grunwald (27m 32s):
So deep concerns that more junior people are not listened to, or kind of told to be quiet. Again, not specifically for any particular company, but I know that that has been happening.

Matt Alder (27m 43s):
Yeah.

Tanya de Grunwald (27m 44s):
One more point number five, which is absolute disaster from the press offices. What on earth is going on? I’ve heard the most bizarre responses when I’ve said, “You’re using the supplier. It’s pretty weird doesn’t fit with your values. What the hell?” And they’ve gone, “Ah, yeah, nothing to do with us.” And that’s the like, their official statement. I mean, “Do you really want that to be your official statement?” “Oh, it’s got nothing to do with us.” After I put forward some really serious stuff about mental health, physical health the impact of this on young people, some of them were being separated from their families, because lots of these firms have something called a GeoFlex policy, which means the grads have to go and work anywhere around the country. So on top of them not being allowed to leave. They might be in the middle of nowhere.

Tanya de Grunwald (28m 26s):
Miles from their family, miles from their own children, sometimes, young children. Miles from their mother who’s having cancer treatment. So this is really serious stuff. And yet the client firms go, “Oh, yeah, it’s not really up to us. You should probably ask them directly. It’s nothing to do with it or something.” It is to do with you. And of course, the clients have the power. And that’s what I always had. And it turned out to be true. I hoped they would use their power for good. In the end, I had to shame them into it, which is disappointing. And what I really hope is that we can learn something from this. I’m not a total pain. I’m actually a nice person, Matt.

Matt Alder (29m 1s):
You are. I’ve known you for a very long time. And you are a very nice person. You are absolutely.

Tanya de Grunwald (29m 3s):
Oh, thank you. Yes. I am. But I’ve got bee in my bonnet. And I won’t edit it. And I’m not actually a confrontational person. But if I believe in something. And I also know that no one else is going to do this work if I don’t do it. One of the things I really want to do as a result of this is to set up a fair work ombudsman, which I think we should have here. We have other types of ombudsman here. We have Property Ombudsman and all sorts of other stuff. We need a fair work ombudsman, because at the moment, if you’ve got a problem with your employer, the only route is legal action. And if you can’t afford lawyers, you can’t get anywhere and you’re basically stuck. So the whole process, all of the burden is all on the employee, which is bad enough, when you’re somebody older, and you’ve got some cash behind you, it’s stressful.

Tanya de Grunwald (29m 47s):
If you’ve ever been through something stressful like that with your employer it’s horrible. In that alone if you’re 21, and you’ve got no money. So we really need a much better way. I can’t do this forever. I’d have people getting in touch with me all the time. And I had someone last night. You know, it’s kind of 2AM I got an email picked up this morning from somebody in a complete state about his horrible employer. You know, I’m not hate to do this. I run a club for good employers of young people. I love doing it. That’s my work. I’m not, you know, why is this falling to me? There’s a whole load of people who should be doing this stuff. Of course, I got in touch with all these people. I was in touch with the Social Mobility Commission, Social Mobility Foundation, training standards, the Financial Conduct Authority, all these people, all these people, and they all said, “It’s not really us.

Tanya de Grunwald (30m 32s):
It’s not really us. Well, and I’m the only person that says, “All right, I’ll take it. I’ll do that. But my hand up. But I do it unpaid. So something’s wrong there.”

Matt Alder (30m 42s):
Absolutely, totally. And on behalf of everyone in talent acquisition, HR, thank you so much for the work that you do and the work that you do for young people and their careers and really kind of highlighting this. As a final question, tell us a bit more about The Good Employers Club. Tell us a bit more about your actual job, and what you do, and how people can find out more and connect with you.

Tanya de Grunwald (31m 3s):
Okay, so it’s really unusual in that. Look, I’m not an HR person. I’m not a talent acquisition person. I’m a journalist, who’s a campaigner. And I know this space inside out from the graduates’ the young people’s perspective. What I wanted to do was when actually brilliant companies then started coming to me while I was running graduate at Fog, after years and years with no business model. And these great companies, actually, EY were the first who came to me and said, “We love what you’re doing. How can we get involved? We think we’re doing good stuff. We want to do more.” And then more and more companies would come to me, always the early careers people. And I would say, “Are you guys talking to each other?” And they weren’t talking to their counterparts at other big employers. So I thought what would happen if we had a club where they could all meet up?

Tanya de Grunwald (31m 45s):
And I launched what was then called the Graduate Fog Employers Club. Since rebranded the good and fair employers club. So we kept the G and the F. But actually, we were talking about apprentices right from the start. So graduate, didn’t really work. So the good and fair employers club, then started as a club, where we would meet once a quarter in person, and all the heads of early careers, would all talk to each other. And they would just share really, really, really openly. They would share their successes, but they would also share their challenges, and, frankly, their disasters. And we’d all have a sort of kind of group hug if you like, and just be like, “Oh my god, this is awful.” I’ve got this problem, someone else saying, “We had that problem. And this is how we fix it.” So it’s really kind of challenges and solutions, kind of sharing that.

Tanya de Grunwald (32m 28s):
And then actually in COVID, obviously, we couldn’t do the in person stuff anymore. So we went from doing quarterly in person sessions to doing monthly zoom calls, which people said was basically a lifeline, because everyone was in such a state at that time, and they’re all trying to plan. I mean, planning is such a huge part of what early careers people do. And they suddenly had to just throw all their plans in the air and just completely start again. So the club really came together during the pandemic. And so now we’ve got 30 members, I think. Foxtons have just joined. And we’ve got, you know, Google, Santander, Vodafone, ET, Accenture, so loads of great brands, who will talk to each other. And I host these meetings for them once a month. And we’ve just had our first actual lunch in Soho in London, which was lovely to get everyone together.

Tanya de Grunwald (33m 10s):
So, you know, long may continue. Just a really great place for people to share issues like this. And I’ve been banging on about exit fees. And they know that. They know that I want it. And there’s a lot to discuss out there. But I think it’s really shown, you know, it’s shown, I mean, I made it sound like I had no support at all. That’s not true. I’ve just had support from kind of smaller, like little pockets of support, I suppose rather than having broad corporate support. And I think next time I do this kind of stuff, I hope I won’t be doing on my own, frankly. But if I do, then next time, I really hope that big corporates particularly will be better place to do this in a way that’s much more comfortable and much less kind of scrappy, and stressful because it doesn’t need to be this way if they just listened to me in the first place.

Matt Alder (33m 60s):
And yeah, thank you very much for joining me.

Tanya de Grunwald (34m 3s):
Thank you.

Matt Alder (34m 4s):
My thanks to Tanya. You can subscribe to this podcast in Apple podcasts, on Spotify, or via your podcasting app of choice. Please also follow the show on Instagram. You can find us by searching for Recruiting Future. You can search all the past episodes at recruitingfuture.com on that site you can also subscribe to the mailing list to get the inside track about everything that’s coming up on the show.

Matt Alder (34m 58s):
Thanks very much for listening. I’ll be back next time and I hope you’ll join me.

Recruiting Future (35m 1s):
This is my show.

Chad and Cheese Podcast (34m 59s):
Do you love news about LinkedIn, Indeed, Google and just about every other recruitment tech company out there? Hell yeah. I’m Chad. I’m Cheese. We’re the Chad and Cheese podcast. All the latest recruiting news and insights are on our show. Dripping in snark and attitude. Subscribe today wherever you listen to your podcasts. We out.

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