And 80 per cent think the practice is nepotistic.
The vast majority of the British public would like to see unpaid internships that last more than four weeks banned, a new poll showed today.
The survey of 5,000 people by the Social Mobility Commission revealed that 72 per cent of people would back a change in the law banning unpaid internships, whilst 42 per cent would “strongly support” a ban.
The poll conducted by YouGov comes ahead of the second reading of a Private Members’ Bill in the House of Lords on Friday that proposes a ban on unpaid work experience and internships.
The Bill argues that those undertaking unpaid internships are technically defined as workers and therefore fall under the National Living Wage Act 1998, meaning they’re entitled to minimum wage.
However, the law is not being enforced effectively, argues the Social Mobility Commission: “a lack of clarity means many companies exploit the loophole or are unaware of the legal requirements to pay interns”, reads their statement on the poll results.
Lord Holmes of Richmond, who put the Bill forward, commented on the survey results: “unpaid internships leave young people in a catch-22 situation; unable to get a job because they haven’t got experience and unable to get experience because they can’t afford to work for free.” He went on:
“[unpaid internships] are clearly discriminatory, crush creativity and competitiveness and hold individuals and our country back. It’s time we consigned them to the past, to the novels of Dickens.”
As well as viewing unpaid internships as exploitative, the British public also view them as nepotistic.
The poll revealed 80 per cent of people want companies to be required to openly advertise internships and work experience opportunities, rather than organise them informally.
Alan Milburn, Chair of the Social Mobility Commission, described unpaid internships as a “modern scandal” where only the privileged and well connected could thrive. Milburn commented:
“Access to [unpaid internships] tends to depend on who, not what you know and young people from low-income backgrounds are excluded because they are unpaid.”
Like exploitative ‘work trials’ highlighted by the SNP earlier this month, unpaid internships are a symptom of a much larger inequality in working life in Britain — it’s encouraging, at least, to see Parliament scrutinising this.Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.