The evidence we received on unpaid work experience indicates that there is systematic abuse of interns, with a growing number of people undertaking ‘work’ but excluded from the minimum wage.
It is becoming increasingly commonplace in certain sectors, particularly the media, entertainment industry and in politics, for employers to demand a period of unpaid work experience as a means of getting into the industry. The Government’s Fair Access to the Professions report highlighted the issue of unpaid internships and how they serve to limit career choices to those who can afford to work unpaid and those who live near London.
We further encourage BIS as part of this work to engage directly with the sectors in which lengthy unpaid internships have become the norm. We invite BIS to present its proposed strategy to us by the summer.
The Low Pay Commission Report can be read here.
More to follow…
With the Government putting increasing emphasis on unpaid internships as the answer to graduate unemployment we thought we would take a look at a successful scheme run by the University of Manchester, which links up employers and students with PAID internship schemes offering graduate level work.
I certainly wish the scheme had been better advertised while I was at Manchester – because they have managed to get 65 students in placements this year, paying at least minimum wage. Industries offering internships range from engineering and lab work to IT and marketing.
The emphasis, says Anne Milligan, the programme coordinator, is on “helping small businesses access talented graduates” and making sure they are offering “graduate level work”. Inspections are done to make sure interns are not making cups of tea or spending six months photocopying.
This is the way a graduate internships scheme should be done, and benefits both the graduates, and small businesses in the region.
The scheme was dreamt up in 2008 with 42 placements, and is steadily growing. Already this year 5 grads have been offered permanent positions. Who can argue with that?
If anyone approaches them with an unpaid position they tell them where to go. Anne described unpaid work as “dreadful” and “devaluing what graduates can offer”. Three cheers for Manchester University Careers Service!
I saw your website on the BBC news and would like to share my story:
After graduating in 2008 I began an internship with a London events organiser, which was advertised as a ‘1-3 month position’. I started this placement in December 2008, and was told I would receive £100 per month in expenses. At the end of the month I went home for a week for Christmas. I strongly feel, both then and now, that I shouldn’t have to justify my reasons for deciding during that week that I could no longer afford to continue with the placement. In the New Year I called my ‘employer’ to tell them as such, and found myself apologising and grovelling for having ‘let them down’. A few days later I sent an email asking what the arrangements were for receiving my expenses for December. I was told that I would not be able to receive any expenses as I had not completed the internship.
At the time I was upset and humiliated, and tried to forget the experience. I now realise that, under law, this amounted to a three-month contract and I should have been paid the National Minimum Wage. Instead, I was exploited at a time when I was helpless and vulnerable, and was not able to stand up for my rights.
The Romans found that slaves were a great way to cut the cost of their decadent lifestyle
An Event on Film and Television Internships
Date: Thursday 18th March
Location: The University of London Union, Malet Street, London, WC1E 7HY (nearest tube stations: Goodge Street & Russell Square)
In the wake of the recent London Dreams case, which retrospectively awarded an unpaid intern the National Minimum Wage for the hours she worked on a feature film, there has been much debate within the industry about the effect this decision will have. Does the verdict represent the long-overdue protection desperately needed by the industry’s most vulnerable workers, or the death of creativity and collaboration which often provides a stepping stone for those who are new to the industry? Should it be viewed as a victory or a disaster..?
Continue reading ‘Shooting yourself in the foot?’
There are loads of people with horrible experiences as interns but my story is different. I graduated with a history degree from the LSE last year and spent 3 months searching for an entry-level job. I have some work experience but not really a lot and given the economic situation I wasn’t very optimistic. I didn’t apply for any internships because they were mostly unpaid and although my parents proposed to support me financially I decided to try it on my own. I became really desperate and applied for any jobs even those for which I was clearly over-qualified and which, to be honest, I’m quite sure I would have dropped out fast.
Continue reading ‘Which? route to take?’