MPs have given the green light to plans to ban unpaid internships, in what has been called a “positive step forward” for graduates who cannot afford to work for free.
The plans to legislate against the exploitation of university graduates were supported by 181 votes against 19, after the motion was brought forward by Conservative MP Alec Shelbrooke.
Shelbrooke said that unpaid internships should “no longer be a barrier for ordinary kids”. He added that his parents made him take on part-time jobs whilst studying to learn the value of money and that unpaid work was “not an option”.
But a recent YouGov poll found that 43% of 18-24 year olds believed that unpaid internships were a barrier to them securing full-time employment.
However, unpaid internships are believed to increase the chances of securing a full-time position. A report conducted in 2012 by poverty tsar and former MP Alan Millburn into social mobility found that over 30% of newly hired graduates were offered positions after interning for their employers. This was as much as 50% in some sectors.
Last year, the Low Pay Commission reported that it had received a substantial amount of evidence that internships and volunteer work was replacing posts where the national minimum wage should apply.
Ben Lyons, co-director of Intern Aware, told Blue & Green Tomorrow, “It’s a positive step forward; we were really pleased and encouraged to see that the proposals have received cross-party support, with almost 200 MPs supporting it.”
He added, “We would like to see the government adopt the proposals put forward by Alec [Shelbrooke]. This is something that could be done with relative ease by the business secretary Vince Cable. He could pass secondary legislation without further legislation being needed”.
When asked how he would respond to the 19 MPs who opposed the proposals, he said, “It is disappointing that a minority of MPs did oppose it. What they need to understand is that the vast majority of young people can’t afford to work for free for months on end.”
Last year, HMRC announced a crackdown on unpaid internships, saying that it would be working with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) to target “rogue employers” who were recruiting graduates.
The crackdown built on fresh calls for employers to pay the living wage, an informal benchmark currently set at £8.80 inside London and £7.65 elsewhere, saying that it helps achieve “longevity and productivity”.
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