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The end of unpaid internships? The government is considering a ban

A government review of unpaid internships may lead to new legislation banning the practise

Damian Hinds, employment minister, has voiced his disapproval of unpaid internships, saying that they give an unfair advantage to young people with wealthy parents. Those requiring help with living costs are unable to take up the unpaid posts and gain vital work experience.

Whilst recognising the importance of work experience for young people, Mr. Hinds suggests that unpaid internships, particularly in more artistic industries such as fashion and media, where competition is intense, are creating a discriminatory market place against those young people who are unable to work for free.

During an interview on ITV’s Peston on Sunday, Mr. Hinds emphasised that offering fair access to roles in sought-after industries is crucial for social mobility. He also stressed the importance of improving access and guidance for children at school, when choosing subjects to aid in their future careers, as well as maintaining apprenticeship programmes.

Nick Clegg, former Deputy Prime Minister, proposed a ban on unpaid internships in 2011, stating that they gave an unfair advantage to those with connections in high places. It was proposed that interns should be paid food and travel expenses, rather than a salary. This move was blocked by David Cameron, Prime Minister at the time.

Since then, despite still driving forward improvements in social mobility, Mr. Clegg rejected calls in 2013 for a ban on advertisements for unpaid internships, citing concerns that it would discourage companies from advertising internships altogether and would lead to firms only offering them to young people with privileged connections.

It is understood that Theresa May, as part of her initiative to provide more opportunities for working class families, is considering enforcing a ban on unpaid internships. Graduates and school leavers would be classed as workers under the national minimum wage legislation, thus forcing employers to pay them a salary.

Conservative MP, Alec Shelbrooke, put forward a private member’s bill in the House of Commons earlier this month, calling for interns to be paid the minimum wage, dependent on the age of the worker. The bill was ‘talked out’, meaning that no progress made within the allocated time, by fellow Conservative MPs, who believed that such legislation could contradict current employment laws. Instead, business minister, Margot James, has stated that unpaid internships should be investigated under the review of employment practises.

Tanya de Grunwald, from Graduate Fog, and Ben Lyons, from Intern Aware, are both involved in campaigning for paid internships. Both claim that unpaid internships are detrimental to social mobility and both are ready to support the Government in reviewing and improving the situation.

Indications suggest that, following the Government review of unpaid internships, new legislation could be revealed in the next Queen’s speech.

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