Internships at the heart of new social mobility policy

We’re obviously excited. Nick Clegg’s social mobility policy is taking unpaid internships to task. Articles in The Telegraph and The Guardian, as well as a report on the Today programme have underlined the importance of making sure internships are available to all, not just those whose parents can afford to put them up or ‘whisper in the ear’ of their mate at the ‘tennis club’ (does anyone actually do that?)

From the BBC:

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg says he wants to stop people getting on in life purely because of “who they know”.

As he launches the government’s social mobility strategy, Mr Clegg said no-one should get an unfair advantage because their parents have “met somebody at the tennis club or the golf club”.

He is planning to end all informal work placements in Whitehall – and will encourage businesses to do the same.

From the Telegraph:

He urged firms to make internships – often a vital gateway to a chosen career – more transparent and financially viable to the less well-off.

That meant covering out-of-pocket expenses or offering a wage.

Companies are being asked to sign a new compact including a commitment to ensuring fair access to internships.

Whitehall is set to lead the way, with Civil Service internships advertised formally from 2012.

This is fantastic. For an Internship campaign group this is surely the equivalent of Christmas. But we weren’t called ‘admirably bolshie’ for nothing. The devil will be in the detail. If I was Harriet Harman – due to question Clegg on this at 12 – I would question and ask:

Most importantly, if you read the report, detail on NMW is hazey at best.

We will continue to encourage employers to open up their employment methods, and we are asking business to offer internships openly and transparently and provide financial support to ensure fair access. This financial support could consist of either payment of at least the appropriate national minimum wage rate, or alternatively payment of reasonable out of pocket expenses in compliance with national minimum wage laws.

We want to improve understanding of the application of national minimum wage legislation to internships and ensure that employers comply with it. Where an individual is entitled to the minimum wage they should recieve it and we take failure to do so very seriously. We are updating our guidance on payment of work experience including internships to ensure that employers and individuals are clear about their rights and responsibilities. We will ensure enforcement of the national minimum wage continues to be effective, and resources are focused where they will have maximum impact. Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs are currently considering targeted enforcement in sectors where internships are commonplace, with a view to carrying out enforcement activity in 2011/12. Young people who feel they have had their minimum wage rights abused are encouraged to contact our confidential Pay and Work Rights Helpline on 0800 917 2368.

We hope this does not mean an update on guidance which allows employers to get out of paying interns minimum wage. The law as it stands is currently very clear. If you work set outs, doing set tasks then you are due minimum wage.

The Independent writes:

HM Revenue & Customs will launch a crackdown in professions such as law and journalism where work experience is commonplace, to ensure that people are paid the national minimum wage or receive out of pocket expenses.

Ironically – the Indy is currently being taken to court for not paying an intern. Crucially the or receive out of pocket expenses” offers an easy get out clause.

Anyway – lets not be picky just yet. Lets celebrate that internships are center stage in the news agenda for at least one day.

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7 Responses to “Internships at the heart of new social mobility policy”


  1. 1 MB 04/07/2011 at 11:23 pm

    http://blogs.ft.com/westminster/2011/04/government-axed-paid-internship-scheme-last-week/
    - read and weep… I hope you didn’t think that Clegg was actually trying to do anything…

  2. 2 Bolts 04/11/2011 at 12:43 pm

    I don’t think this qualifies as anything more than a PR stunt. While Clegg attacks unpaid internships spread through word-of-mouth connections, his government is cutting a scheme which already offers the alternative. The Graduate Internship Scheme started last year, offering funding to SME’s to provide paid internships that offer real training and skills to new graduates.

    I was able to do two paid internships under this scheme, both of which have been immensely beneficial. It was scrapped last month. What are graduates who can’t get on to a scheme supposed to do now? Apparently when Mr. Clegg’s office were asked about this, they claimed they weren’t aware of it.

    Either there’s a lack of joined-up thinking at the heart of government or Clegg is a guilty of breathtaking hypocrisy.

  3. 3 Katherine Hounsell 04/13/2011 at 9:47 pm

    I couldn’t afford an internship having used my savings to do one in the US so have approached employment in other ways.

    I feel strongly about the internship debate and you can see my response at http://graduatetoyou.blogspot.com/2011/04/realistic-resources.html.

    Graduates are being creative in their search for employment and there are other ways in however sometimes we can’t help who and what we know!

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  1. 1 Weekly round-up: 6 March 2011 « arts management ireland Trackback on 04/06/2011 at 4:29 pm
  2. 2 Clegg and the government inconsistent on unpaid internships « Leila Battison: Science in Pen and Ink Trackback on 04/17/2011 at 10:05 pm

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