On Monday 13th February we launched our campaign Unpaid Unfair Illegal in partnership with the TUC. The event was also the launch of their TUC's Rights for Interns Smartphone app which allows unpaid interns to calculate what they are owed under national minimum wage legislation. Speakers included TUC General Secretary Frances O'Grady, NUJ General Secretary Michelle Stanistreet, Hazel Blears MP and NUS Vice President Society and Citizenship Dannie Grufferty. Hazel Blears MP spoke about her parliamentary internship scheme and the success this has had. She highlighted the growing concerns about the worrying trend of unpaid internships offered by MPs.
Frances O' Grady said:
“Too many employers are ripping off young people by employing them in unpaid internships that are not only unfair but, in most cases, probably illegal. Internships can offer a kick-start to a career that many young people value. But as more and more graduates are being forced to turn to internships in place of traditional entry level jobs, we’re concerned that a growing number of interns are at risk of real exploitation. Employers need to know that there’s no such thing as free labour.”
Dannie Grufferty said:
“Unpaid internships quite flagrantly do not comply with basic minimum wage legislation. If we are serious about fair access to all professions, the current situation whereby young people are expected to undertake many months of unpaid work in order to be seen to have sufficient experience simply cannot go on. This presents a fundamental barrier to many of the most competitive professions for the millions of young people who cannot afford to work for free. With over a million young people unemployed, we need to be clear now more than ever that young people's enthusiasm and desire to work cannot be exploited. A fair day’s work always deserves a fair day’s pay."
How to get involved
To kick start your campaigns NUS have put together a briefing and a poster which you can display around your campus. We have developed produced the briefing alongside University Colleges Union (UCU) and it is aimed at students' unions and UCU members. It contains advice and guidance about what constitutes an unpaid internship and why the NUS and UCU are concerned about the growing number of unpaid internships in the job market. It also contains ways in which your union can get involved.
Download the briefing here
University careers services often advertise unpaid internships encouraging students to apply for work that is largely unpaid to supplement their employability skills after they leave university. This puts students in a financially precarious position, convincing them an unpaid internship is only way into an industry however this is not always the case many employers have no intention of offering paid employment at the end of an internship. We want universities to stop short-changing their students’ employment prospects and to stop advertising unpaid internships.
Spread awareness about unpaid internships by putting this poster up around your campus.
Follow the campaign on Twitter #payinterns
Visit the TUC's Rights for Interns website and tell them about your experiences.