23 October 2017
The vast majority of the UK public would back a ban on unpaid internships lasting four weeks or more, a new poll has revealed.
In a survey by YouGov, on behalf of the Social Mobility Commission, 72% said they would support a ban, and 42% said they strongly support it.
A Private Members’ Bill proposing such a ban will have its second hearing in the House of Lords on Friday 27 October, and the Social Mobility Commission pointed out that many interns should already be paid by law, by employers are exploiting a lack of enforcement or are unaware of their obligations.
Many interns legally fall under the classification of “worker”, the body explained, and are therefore entitled to workers’ rights, including the minimum wage.
Alan Milburn, Chair of the Social Mobility Commission, said: “Unpaid internships are a modern scandal which must end. Internships are the new rung on the career ladder. They have become a route to a good professional job. But access to them tends to depend on who, not what you know and young people from low-income backgrounds are excluded because they are unpaid. They miss out on a great career opportunity and employers miss out from a wider pool of talent. Unpaid internships are damaging for social mobility. It is time to consign them to history.”
The public also felt internships needed to be more open to people from all walks of life, with 80% saying they want companies to be required to openly advertise internships and work experience, rather than arrange them informally.
Sir Peter Lampl, Chairman of the Sutton Trust and of the Education Endownment Foundation, agreed with their perspective, commenting: “There also needs to be greater transparency in recruiting for these positions, so that young people without professional networks are not at a disadvantage.”
The Institute of Employment Rights recommends that apprenticeships, training and workers’ rights – such as the pay for interns – are organised strategically at sectoral level through collective bargaining processes. This involves trade unions and employers’ associations negotiating for minimum labour standards and development opportunities across entire industries.
This model is successfully employed by some of Europe’s strongest economies and has been demonstrated to be an effective way of reducing social inequalities.